|Date||Match Up||Rating||Score||Result||Profit||Lead Time||Analysis|
|01-07-17||Tennessee +12 v. Florida||Top||70-83||Loss||-110||9 h 50 m||Show|
The set-up: The Tennessee Volunteers (8-6, 1-1 SEC) will visit the Florida Gators (11-3, 2-0 SEC), who are ranked 24th in the latest AP poll. Tennessee: The Vols are just 8-6 but Florida head coach Mike White says the Volunteers are much better than their record indicates. "They'll be very well prepared, typical of a Rick Barnes-coached team," White told reporters this week. "I like their team speed and depth." As for Barnes, he knows his team will need a much better effort than it gave in a loss to Arkansas on Tuesday. "I thought we took a step backwards the other night (against Arkansas)," Barnes told reporters. "I didn't just feel like we completed the way we have to. What people might think on the outside, that we're playing hard, but there's a different level that we expect and that we know we have to do every night." Twelve Volunteers are averaging more than 10 minutes per game. Senior guard Robert Hubbs III leads Tennessee in scoring at 15.2 points per game and is second in rebounding at 4.9 boards per game. 6-5 freshman forward Grant Williams leads the team in rebounding at 5.9 RPG and is second in scoring at 10.8. Junior guard Detrick Mostella is the Vols' best weapon off the bench and at 10.6 & 4.1, is the only other double digit scorer for the Vols.
Florida: Sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen leads Florida's balanced attack by averaging 14.1PPG. He is one of three Gators averaging in double figures, along with 6-6 junior forward Devin Robinson is averaging (12.6 & 5.5) and senior guard Canyon Berry (11.6), a graduate transfer from Charleston. Barry is coming off his best performance of the season, scoring 20 points in Florida's 70-63 win over Ole Miss. Florida didn't play a complete game against the Rebels, as they let a 20-point lead midway through the second half slip away and were forced to hold on down the stretch.
|01-06-17||Oakland v. Valparaiso -3.5||Top||78-66||Loss||-105||13 h 46 m||Show|
The set-up: The Horizon League’s top-two teams meet tonight, as 12-3 Oakland visits 11-3 Valparaiso.The Grizzlies have opened 2-0 in conference play and the home-standing Crusaders are 1-0. Oakland: The Grizzlies won 23 games last year and lost in the championship game of the Vegas 16 tourney. However, the 5-9 Felder decided to forego his senior season, after averaging 24.4-4.3-9.3. He really can’t be replaced and also gone is center Gibson (11.3 & 6.2). Still, Oakland comes in on a three-game winning streak, including that 2-0 start in Horizon play. Guard Martez Walker (17.7) leads the team in scoring and is paired with Sherron Dorsey-Walker (12.4) in the backcourt. The 6-7 Hayes is back and he’s the team's best frontcourt player, averaging 13.5 & 6.4. Oakland averages 80.2 PPG Valparaiso: The Crusaders won the Horizon regular season title but was KO’d in the conference tourney, then got snubbed for the NCAA. Valpo almost got its revenge in the NIT but lost in the championship game to GW, ending the season with 30 wins. Head coach Bryce Drew accepted the job at Vandy with his assistant, Matt Lottich, taking over. Returning for his senior year is the 6-9 Peters, who averages 25.0 & 10.4. Hammink (15.1 & 4.4) and Tevonn Walker (12.0 & 4.9) make for a veteran and solid backcourt duo. The pick: Oakland has covered seven of its last eight against Valpo (including its last four visits) but Valpo has gone 4-1 SU the last five overall (losing in OT) and this pointspread is low enough for me to make the Crusaders a 10* play.
|01-06-17||Wolves v. Wizards -5||Top||105-112||Win||100||11 h 52 m||Show|
The set-up: The Washington Wizards had won nine of 12 games to reach .500 but lost 101-91 at Houston on Monday and then 113-105 to a 10-win Mavericks team the next night in Dallas, to enter tonight’s home game vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves at 16-18. The Timberwolves lost 93-91 at the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night, falling to 11-24. Only the 11-25 Mavericks own a worse record in the West. Minnesota: The T-wolves’ latest setback came in the closing moments at Philly, as Robert Covington's jumper off an inbounds pass with 0.2 seconds remaining gave the 76ers the win. "We wanted the ball to go away from the basket. That didn't happen," Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We needed some help on the curl, and we didn't get it." Thibodeau's defensive sermons have yet to sink in on this youthful but VERY talented team. What team doesn’t covert the trio of Wiggins (21.7 & 4.0), Towns (21.6 & 11.6) and LaVine (21.1)? Or for that matter, the 6-11 Gorgui Dieng, who in just his fourth season is averaging 10.4 & 7.9. However, Minnesota limps into Washington having lost five of seven, after falling behind by 26 points at Philadelphia, before coming all the way back to tie it with 1.6 seconds left but losing on a buzzer-beater 93-91. "That has been our biggest challenge, to be a 48-minute team," Thibodeau told reporters, "and we’re nowhere near that." He’s right about that! Washington: The Wizards’ starters play more minutes than any team in the league other than tonight’s opponent, the Timberwolves. Wall (23.5-4.5-10.0) and Beal (22.1) form a dynamic backcourt plus forwards Porter (14.1 & 6.6) and Morris (28.8 & 5.8) surround center Gortat (11.5 & 12.0), up front. However, like Minnesota, Washington is in the bottom third of the league in scoring defense (106.2 PPG ranks 23rd), while allowing opponents to shoot 46.9%, including 37.6% on threes (rank 26th in both categories). In fact, the Wizards allowed the lowly Mavericks to bury 17 three-pointers on Tuesday. "We got outworked. I haven’t said that a lot about this team, but we got outworked," Wizards coach Scott Brooks told reporters. "They were moving the ball, and we were hoping that they would miss and not doing a very good job of making them miss." The pick: The Timberwolves look great in spurts but struggle to put together 48 minutes representative of the talent level of the players. Meanwhile, the Wizards should be well-focused and not let their little “Texas two-step (or miss-step)” derail them. After all, Washington will take an eight-game home winning streak (also 8-0 ATS!) into this contest against a Minnesota team which has allowed at least 112 points in five of their last nine road games. Washington has reached triple digits in scoring during 17 of its last 21 games. Washington is an 8* play.
|01-05-17||Montana v. Idaho +1||Top||70-57||Loss||-110||13 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: The 6-9 Montana Grizzlies face off with the 5-7 Idaho Vandals on Thursday in Big Sky college basketball play. Montana is 1-1 in Big Sky games so far, while Idaho will be looking for its first conference win, after a 69-62 home loss to Eastern Washington. Montana: The Grizzlies are coming an 84-81 home loss in OT to Weber State, which ended the team's three-game winning streak. Montana is a guard-oriented team, led by Rorie (16.5), Wright (11.6), Pridgett (8.6) and Oguine (8.2 & 5.2). Montana best frontcourt player is the 6-8 Krslovic, averaging 6.3 & 7.5. Idaho: The Vandals come in having lost four of their last five games. Guard Sanders leads the way at 18.5 PPG and with fellow guard Callandret sidelined for the remainder of the season due to a knee injury (he played just two games TY after averaging 14.0 PPG last season), he’ll be relied on even more heavily. The team’s only other double digit scorer is the 6-7 Blake (10.2 & 7.1), who is a JUCO transfer . The pick: Idaho lost its last game, 69-62 at home to Eastern Washington. However, a team rarely wins when it shoots 30.5% from the floor, including 4 of 14 on threes. However, note that Eastern Washington shot 50.0% for the game, including making 11 of 22 three-pointers, yet won by just SEVEN points! The home team has covered in seven of the last 10 meetings between these schools and I’ll make Idaho an 8* play in this one.
|01-05-17||Thunder v. Rockets -9||Top||116-118||Loss||-105||11 h 59 m||Show|
The set-up: James Harden was a former teammate of Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City but now with Harden on the Rockets and Westbrook still on the Thunder (sans Durant), the two guards have established themselves as the early front-runners for league MVP honors. Westbrook leads the league with 16 triple-doubles and is averaging 30.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 10.5 assists per game. Harden has nine triple-doubles, after closing the month of December with a historic 53-point, 16-rebound and 17-assist performance against the New York Knicks on New Year's Eve. He comes in averaging 28.4 points and career highs in rebounds (8.2) and assists (11.9). Oklahoma City: Westbrook had 33 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists last night in a 123-112 loss at Charlotte, making just 10 of 31 shots. Also, he received a technical foul for throwing the ball in the direction of Tre Maddox in the first quarter and conking the referee in the side of the head (he said it was an accident and there’s little reason not to believe him). OKC’s problem is, that the Thunder get scoring from Oladipo (16.2) and the team's two-headed center (Adams and Kanter combine to average 25.8 & 13.9) but not much else. Defense has also been an issue, especially on the road where the Thunder are allowing 108.1 PPG. The loss in Charlotte was OKC’s third straight on the road, falling to 8-9 on the season. Houston: Harden was named Western Conference Player of the Month earlier this week, after leading the Rockets to a 15-2 record in December. Houston opened 2017 with a 101-91 home win over the Wizards on Monday and are now 27-9 (only the Warriors, Spurs and Cavs have better records in the entire NBA) plus also own the NBA’s best ATS record at 24-12. Harden is the prime reason why the Rockets have won five straight games and 16 of their last 18 but don’t forget about his backcourt partner, Patrick Beverley. He missed the season’s first 11 games but since he’s returned to the court, Houston has gone 18-4 over the last 25 games (Beverley has missed three games in that span but is expected back here). He’s the team's best perimeter defender and next to Harden, he’s the team MVP. However, Houston also has excellent balance (unlike OKC), with four others in double digits (note: center Capela is out until late-Jan. with a leg injury). The pick: These teams have met twice already this season, both times in OKC, with each team owning a three-point win. The Rockets get the Thunder in Houston tonight and while they haven’t played since Monday, the Thunder are playing back-to-back games and for the third time in the last four days. Houston is an 8* play.
|01-05-17||Purdue -3 v. Ohio State||Top||76-75||Loss||-105||10 h 7 m||Show|
The set-up: the 12-3 Purdue Boilermakers are in Columbus tonight to take on the 10-4 Ohio State Buckeyes. Purdue opened Big Ten play with a 89-67 home rout of Iowa but on New Year’s Day, lost 91-82 in overtime to visiting Minnesota (Boilermakers, are 25-3 at Mackey Arena over the last two seasons). Purdue plays its first conference road game tonight at Columbus, as the Buckeyes look to bounce back from losing their Big Ten opener 75-70 at Illinois on Sunday. Purdue: Gone from last year’s 26–win team is the 7-0 A.J. Hammons, who led Purdue in scoring at 15.0 PPG (also added 8.2 RPG). However, Purdue has a strong frontcourt in the 7-2 Haas (13.9 & 5.2) surrounded by 6-9 power forward Swanigan (18.5 & 13.0) and 6-8 SF Edwards (12.1 & 5.4). Freshman guard Carsen Edwards (10.7) leads a group of solid perimeter players, including Mathias (9.7), Thompson (7.8) and Cline (7.1). Purdue is an excellent offensive team (84.5 PPG ranks 22nd) and a good defensive team, allowing 65.4 PPG (52nd). Ohio State: Thad Matta is in his 13th season with the Buckeyes and has never failed to win at least 20 games, going to the postseason every year except in his first, when the school was ineligible (nine NCAAs and two NITs, winning the NIT in 2008). He entered this season with a 320-108 (.748) record at Ohio State and this year’s team features six players averaging between 9.7 and 13.9 PPG, led by 6-4 junior forward Jae'Sean Tate, who is also second in rebounding (6.9). Trevor Thompson, a 6-11 junior center, is averaging 10.4 points and a team-best 8.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game but will have his work cut out for him against Purdue’s big frontcourt. The pick: The Buckeyes have dominated Purdue here in Columbus, winning 13 of the last 14 meetings plus Matta is 11-1 in Big Ten home openers. However, I’m not sure the 6-8 Loving (11.6 & 4.8) and the 6-7 Bastes-Diop (9.7- & 5.2), along with Thompson, can match up with Swanigan and Co. The 6-9 sophomore is being mentioned as a candidate for the Naismith Award, already owning a remarkable four games this season with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds! Purdue is a 10* play.
|01-04-17||Grizzlies v. Clippers +1||Top||106-115||Win||100||11 h 5 m||Show|
The set-up: The Los Angeles Clippers won 109-98 on Monday, snapping their season-high six-game losing streak. The 23-14 Clippers now get set to host the 22-15 Memphis Grizzlies, who had won four of their last six before their humbling 116-102 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. Memphis: However, there was some good news on Tuesday for Memphis. Center Marc Gasol, who had tweaked his left ankle in Saturday's victory over the Sacramento Kings, returned and collected a team-high 22 points, seven assists and six rebounds against the Lakers. Then again, Gasol isn't a sure thing to play against the Clippers. "I expect to be out there," Gasol said. "We'll see how the ankle reacts after the game (Tuesday). Obviously, it feels a little weak. I'm not as explosive by any means." Gasol leads the team in scoring at 19.6 PPG (also adds 6.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists) but most feel as if PG Conley (18.4 & 5.4 APG) is the team’s most important player. However, how do those people explain the fact that Memphis was 7-2 when Conley missed nine straight games from Nov. 30 through Dec. 14 or that since he’s been back, the Grizzlies are just 3-5 in the eight games he’s played over the team’s last 10? LA Clippers: LA has been playing without PG Chris Paul (sore left hamstring) and PF Blake Griffin (right knee surgery). Paul (17.7-5.3-9.5) is listed as doubtful with the left hamstring injury that has caused him to miss six of the past seven games, while Griffin (21.2-8.8-4.7) has missed nine straight contests and isn't expected back for at least another 2-to-4 weeks. Without them, the Clippers have endured their worst stretch this year. Yes, they beat the suns but before that, the Clippers were pounded 114-88 by the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday and 140-116 by the Houston Rockets on Friday. The pick: The Clippers were the best defensive team in the league in November but have since struggled and now rank ninth in scoring defense at 102.9 PPG. "I don't know what's been wrong," shooting guard J.J. Redick told reporters. "The frustrating part to me is that we were a top-five defense last year and have proven this year that we can be a top defense, and we've just been awful on that side of the ball." However, Gasol may not play here for Memphis in a back-to-back situation plus SF Chandler Parsons continues to struggle since getting back in the lineup after a long absence. He is averaging just 2.8 PPG on 8-of-32 over the past six games, after having two points on 1-of-6 shooting against the Lakers. I believe the worst is behind the Clippers and will make them a 10* play in this one.
|01-04-17||LSU +1 v. Missouri||Top||88-77||Win||100||12 h 17 m||Show|
The set-up: LSU is 8-4 as it heads to Missouri looking for its first SEC win (opened with a los to Vandy). The 5-7 Missouri Tigers will be playing their SEC opener and will be in search of some offense. LSU: The Tigers not only lost Ben Simmons (19.2-11.8-4.8) from last year’s team but also guards Hornsby (13.1) and Quarterman (11.2-4.6-3.6). Head coach Johnny Jones has come under pressure, as he’s only taken the Tigers to one NCAA tourney in his first four years at the school and that wasn’t last year, when Simmons was considered the best player in the nation (was taken overall No. 1 by the 76ers in the draft). LSU is coming off one of its best offensive efforts of the season, as it shot 57.4 percent, including 17-of-28 from three-point range, but lost 96-89 to Vanderbilt last Thursday. Craig Victor II (10.5 & 7.6 rebounds) has been dismissed for violating team rules, leaving guards Blakeley (17.0 & 5.0) and Sampson (12.1) plus the 6-10 Reath (14.2 & 5.8) as its top players. Missouri: These Tigers are struggling, as they get set to open SEC play. Missouri was 10-21 (3-15 in SEC games) last season and the Tigers may not be too much better this season. 6-7 sophomore forward Kevin Puryear (12.5 & 6.6) has been the most consistent scorer, while freshman guard Frankie Hughes (11.8) is the only other Missouri player in double digits. Missouri is shooting just 39.7% from the floor (326th) and only 27.2% on threes (347th). The pick: Missouri won 74-67 in overtime against LSU to open league play last year but that won’t be the case, here. Make LSU an 8* play.
|01-04-17||IUPU Ft Wayne -4 v. Nebraska-Omaha||Top||80-78||Loss||-105||11 h 18 m||Show|
The set-up: IPW is 11-4 to start the season and will play a Summit League contest tonight at 8-6 Nebraska-Omaha. IPFW has opened 1-1 in league paly while Nebraska-Omaha is 0-2. IPFW: The Mastodons are a high-scroing team (89.8 PPG ranks 6th), which shoots 43.1% from three-point range (tops in the nation). A quartet of guards scor in double digits, led by PG Eavnas (18.4 & 5.7 APG). He’s not alone though as Scoot avergaes 16.9 & 5.6, Konchar (14.5 & 8.4) and Harrell (11.1). Nebraska-Omaha: The Mavericks are led by the 6-7 Thurman (13.5 & 7.( plus own a trio of guards scoring in double digits, as well. Tyus (13.2_ leads the waym folwoed by Jackson (12.9 & 5.3) and Hollins (11.1). The pick: The high point of IPFW’s season was an upset of Indian nback in late November and the Mastodons did bounce back from a disappointing loss to Western Illinois in their Summit League opener to down Oral Roberts 102-91 last Saturday (as a seven point favorite) in their typical track meet style. The Nebraska Omaha Mavericks are hoping to break out of a recent funk that has seen them drop three in a row (0-2 in Summit League palky) but tyhis is not the time or palce. IPFW is an 8* play.
|01-04-17||VCU v. Duquesne +9||Top||94-87||Win||100||10 h 9 m||Show|
The set-up: The 11-3 VCU Rams and the 8-6 Duquesne Dukes meet Wednesday in college basketball action at the A.J. Palumbo Center in Pittsburgh. Both schools have opened 1-0 in A-10 play, although Duquesne’s best win so far came back on Dec.2 over cross-city rival Pittsburgh, 64-55 as nearly a two-TD underdog. VCU lost back-to-back games to Illinois and Ga. Tech in early December but enters on a five-game winning streak. Virginia Commonwealt: The Rams are well-known quantity to most basketball fans and come off a 25-win season and yet another NCAA appearance. The Rams have won 24 or more games for 10 consecutive seasons, a period which spans three head coaches. Will Wade is in his second year and why won’t this team win 24-plus games again in 2016-17? The team's top-player is gone (Melvin Johnson averaged 17.4 PPG) but PG Lewis (16.1 & 4.1 APG) and the 6-7 Alie-Cox (10.1 & 4.1) lead a well-balanced group which is holding opponents to 65.1 PPG (51st). Duquesne:The Dukes have upset Pitt and have a nice group of players. Guards Lewis (12.1). Smith (10.9) and Blackman(10.7) all average in double figures plus the 6-8 Mike (10.1 & 5.7) and the 6-8 Sanders (5.6 & 6.2) are the team's starting frontcourt players. The pick: Duquesne has won seven of their last 10 home games but are just 2-8 ATS. Meanwhile, the Rams are 16-5 ATS in their last 21 road games. VCU is an 8* play.
|01-03-17||Wizards v. Mavs +1||Top||105-113||Win||100||10 h 10 m||Show|
The set-up: The Dallas Mavericks are getting healthier and enter 2017 with hopes of a turnaround. The Mavs opened the season 6-20 but after splitting their last eight games, are just 4 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot in the West (note: the bad news is, five teams sit between them and the 8th-place Kings). The 16-17 Washington Wizards come to Dallas tonight, just percentage points out of the East’s final playoff spot (Pacers and Bulls are 17-18). Washington: The Wizards saw their three-game winning streak snapped Monday night with a 101-91 loss at Houston and failed to move above .500 for the first time this season. However, Bradley Beal did return after missing one game with a sprained ankle to score a team-high 27. John Wall added 18 points and 12 assists, after averaging 24.3 points, an NBA-leading 13 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 steals in three games last week. Wall (23.4-4.5-10.1) and Beal (22.0) make a great backcourt duo when healthy. Throw in a starting frontcourt of forwards Porter (14.1 & 6.7) and Morris (12.8 & 5.9) plus center Gortat (11.5 & 11.8) and the Wizards should not be below .500! Dallas: "I felt like the last couple of weeks we've been playing .500 ball, which is OK," Dirk Nowitzki said about the team's recent 4-4 run. "It's a lot better than what we started off, and now we'll get more healthy and hopefully take another step. We've got to let it rip. We're all competitors, and Coach obviously is pushing us every day. The return of Nowitzki to the lineup is another reason for optimism. The league's sixth-leading career scorer has missed the majority of the season battling Achilles soreness, but Nowitzki has made the best of his limited court time lately. He has logged 70 minutes over his last four games and scored 45 points on 16-of-41 shooting (he’s at 11.8 & 5.1 on the season in nine games). Dallas is considering moving veteran center Andrew Bogut (3.5 & 9.9) to the bench but any move is predicated on power forward Dirk Nowitzki being able to stay healthy. Barnes (20.4 & 5.5) has turned out to be an excellent addition and Matthews is having abetter second season (15.8 PPG) for Dallas, after leaving Portland. The pick: The Wizards are a poor road team (3-11 SU & 5-9 ATS) and Dallas has beaten Washington in 11 of the past 12 meetings. Make Dallas an 8* play.
|01-03-17||Wisconsin v. Indiana -1||Top||75-68||Loss||-103||10 h 25 m||Show|
The set-up: Indiana began its season with an OT win over preseason No. 3 Kansas at Pearl Harbor and not too long ago, the Hoosiers were burying opponents with a barrage of three-pointers and ascending to a No. 3 ranking, themselves. However, head coach Tom Crean's team is teetering on the brink of being unranked (came in No. 25 in Monday’s AP poll), after back-to-back losses, including a 77-62 ‘spanking’ delivered by Louisville in Saturday's Countdown Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Wisconsin was ranked 9th in the preseason poll (Hoosiers were 11th) and have pretty much played according to form, entering this game 10-2 and ranked 13th in Monday’s poll. Wisconsin: The Badgers will take eight-game winning streak into Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The Badgers have always been known for their defense and it’s no different this season, as Wisconsin comes in allowing 58.8 PPG, 8th-best in the nation. Two seniors are leading the way for Wisky, guard Bronson Koenig averages 14.1 PPG and 6-7 forward Nigel Hayes is at 14.0 PPG and 5.8 RPG. 6-10 sophomore Ethan Haps has averaged 12.7 & 9.6, giving Wisconsin a potent trio of players. Badgers head coach Greg Guard assumed control of the Badgers when Bo Ryan quit early last season and this is his first full season on the job but so far, Wisconsin hasn’t missed a beat. The Badgers opened conference play with a 72-52 home win over Rutgers. Indiana: In stark contrast, the Hoosiers opened Big Ten play with an 87-84 home setback to Nebraska, as a 14-point favorite. Indiana followed that game by getting thumped by Louisville (see above). 6-5 guard Blackmon (17.3 & 5.8) leads the Hoosiers and junior guard Robert Johnson checks in averaging 13.8 & 4.1. However, after being the team's hottest shooter a week ago, he went 1-of-13 in the game against the Cardinals. Up front, it’s the 6-8 Anunoby (12.2 & 6.2) and 6-10 center Bryant (12.1 & 7.6.0). The pick: This will be offense (Indiana averages 86.5 PPG to rank 13th on 49.8% shooting, which ranks 15th), against that tough Wisconsin D. The Hoosiers can’t afford another home loss after that shocker to Nebraska, which ended the school's 26-game home winning streak. Indiana is 9-1 SU at home this season and averaging 90.0 PPG, so I expect a bounce back. Both of Wisconsin’s losses this year have come against ranked opponents (at Creighton and in Maui against North Carolina) and I expect a third loss to a ranked opponent, here. Make Indiana a 10* play.
|01-02-17||Hornets v. Bulls||Top||111-118||Loss||-110||18 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: The 19-15 Charlotte Hornets are in Chicago to take on the 16-18 Bulls. The Hornets have won the last three in this series and after seeing his team drop eight of 11, Chicago head coach Fred Hoiberg may be sitting on the 'hottest' coaching seat in the NBA. Charlotte: The Hornets are at their when playing strong team defense but that wasn't the case in Saturday's 121-109 home loss to the Cavs. Cleveland made 50.6 percent from the floor and and had 71 first-half points. PG Kemba Walker (22.7-4.0-5.4) had 37 points on Saturday but it wasn't enough. However, Charlotte had won five of six prior to Saturday's setback, including a 103-91 home win over the Bulls back on Dec.23rd in which Walker scored 20 points and backcourt mate Nicolas Batum (14.7-7.6-5.9) recorded a triple-double. Six other Hornets are scoring between 9.0 and 11.0 PPG on the season. Chicago: Hoiberg tried to shake up the Bulls in the last two games by sitting veteran PG Rajon Rondo in favor of Michael Carter-Williams, beginning in the second half of Friday's 111-101 loss at Indiana and continuing throughout Saturday's 116-96 setback against the Milwaukee Bucks at home. Rondo (7.2-6.5-7.1) has been a huge under-achiever but since Williams has gotten back on the floor for the last four games, he has made just six of 27 shots! Butler's (24.6-6.6-4.3) an All Star but Wade (18.8-4.1-3.7) looks old and the "new-look" Bulls seem worse than last year's non-playoff team. The pick:The Bulls lack chemistry and are just a poor offensive team, scoring 100.5 PPG (23rd), while shooting 43.4% from the floor (28th), including 30.7% on threes (30th). Meanwhile, the Hornets are win-less in six games against the Eastern Conference's three top teams (after dropping a 121-115 loss to defending champion Cleveland on Saturday) but that leaves them 19-9 against the rest of the league. Charlotte is a 10* play.
|01-02-17||Quinnipiac +4.5 v. Niagara||Top||81-78||Win||100||17 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: The 4-8 Quinnipiac Bobcats visit the 4-9 Niagara Purple Aces in a MAAC contest Monday night. Quinnipiac is off a 9-21 season and Niagara was just 7-25 last year (not exactly a marquee matchup). Quinnipiac: Two freshman guards are leading the way for the Bobcats, Dixon (14.6) and Kiss (10.3), joined up front by the 6-9 Daniels (11.8 & 5.9). Four others contribute between 6.2 and 9.1 PPG but the Bobcats' biggest problem is defense, as the team allows 80.2 PPG to rank 322nd. Niagara:The Purple Aces lost their top scorer from last year in Blackman (15.8) but Scott has stepped up big time, averaging 16.8 & 6.8. He's joined in thebackcourt by USC transfer Dukes, who is averaging 15.8 PPG. Like Quinnipiac, Delaware has trouble on the defensive end of the court, allowing 78.7 PPG. The pick: Niagara comes in having lost eight of its last 12 games and going back a little, is 3-6 SU and ATS in its last nine home games. Meanwhile, after an 0-4 starts, the Bobcats have split their last eight games and are looking to establish some consistency. Not much defense expected in this one and I'll take any available points, making Quinnipiac an 8* play.
|01-02-17||College of Charleston v. Delaware +7.5||Top||65-56||Loss||-110||16 h 45 m||Show|
The set-up: The 10-4 Charleston Cougars will visit Delaware to take on the 7-7 Blue Hens in CAA play on Monday, The Cougars have opened 1-0 in CAA play while Delaware is 0-1.Charleston: The Cougars won 17 games last season despite losing leading scorer Canyon Barry (19.1 PPG) at the beginning of CAA play. He graduated and transferred to Florida but the Cougars have a veteran team back (all five starters, as Barry came off the bench). The team is led by a trio of guards in Chealey (14.2), Riller (10.9) and Johnson (7.6), who is down this year after averaging 12.3 PPG last season. The 6-7 Brantley (13.5 & 7.9) and the 6-10 Harris (5.2 & 6,9) are the team's best inside players. Delaware: The Blue Hens are just 7-7 but taht already matches last year's win total, as Delaware went just 7-23. Two key players are gone from that team in guard Holder (17.7 & 4.7 APG) and the 6-7 King-Davis (14.8 & 9.2). Freshman guard Daly (12.6 & 7.6) has been this year's best performer so far with fellow guard Mosley (11.5) being the team's only other double digit scorer. However, five others score between 5.1 and 9.1 PPG. The pick: Charleston has won seven of its last eight and is one of the best defensive teams in the country, allowing 59.5 PPG to rank 11th. However, Delaware has looked good in its last two games as the Blue Hens beat a good Iona team and lost a close one 56-54 to Hofstra in its CAA opener. Delaware has been very competitive at home this season in going 5-1 SU and in this low-scoring game, I'm making the home dog (Delaware) a 10* play.
|01-01-17||Northern Iowa v. Evansville -2||Top||58-70||Win||100||9 h 33 m||Show|
NOTE: THIS PLAY IS ON NORTHERN IOWA!
The set-up: Northern Iowa is just 5-7 overall (0-1 in MVC play with a 68-64 home loss to Missouri St.) as it opens 2017 with a road game in league play at 9-5 Evansville, which also began its conference play with a loss, 62-50 at Illinois State Northern Iowa: The Panthers are off 31- and 23-win seasons, last year upsetting Texas in a first round NCAA game. However, three key players are gone from that squad, a perimeter trio consisting of Washpun (14.2-4.1-5.3), Bohannon (11.5 & 4.1) and Jesperson (10.8 & 4.0). So far this season, senior guard Morgan (17.6 & 7.3) has carried the load, with four players averaging between 7.0 and 9.5 PPG. The Panthers just haven't scored much, averaging 64.1 PPG (336th) on 40.1 percent shooting (321st). Evansville: Purple Aces won 25 games last season but gone are D.J. Balintine (20.5 PPG) and tyhe 6-10 Mockevicius (15.7 & 14.0), both who may just be MVC hall-of-famers. However, Evansville has looked strong in the early going with a solid 9-5 record, although a 62-50 loss at Illinois State in their conference opener snapped a seven game winning streak. Guards Brown (21.2 & 4.4) and Taylor (15.6) lead the way but the team could really use the 6-7 Wiley (8.7 & 4.6), who is sidelined now with a groin injury. Evansville, despite a much better record, doesn't much better than Northern Iowa, at 69.7 PPG. The pick: Evansville is 8-0 SU at home but I tend to always be a believer in the Northern Iowa Panthers and despite the slow start, I'll stick with them here. Northern Iowa is 10-4 ATS in its last 14 road games and I'll make Northern Iowa a 10* play on Jan. 1.
|12-31-16||San Francisco v. Santa Clara||Top||58-72||Win||100||9 h 41 m||Show|
The set-up: The 11-3 San Francisco Dons are off to a fast start (just 15-15 last year), despite losing four starters from last year's team. The Dons resume WCC play with this game tonight at the Santa Clara Broncos, who have opened just 6-8, despite returning all five starters from last year's 11-20 team (maybe that's the problem?).
San Francisco: The Dons sem to be making a case for cracking the top half of the West Coast Conference with their strong 11-3 start. They kicked off the conference schedule the right way with an 80-74 victory against visiting San Diego, althoiugh they didn't cover as an 11-point favorite. San Francisco opened a 23-point lead at the half but had to hold on for the six point win. Guards Boyce (15.5 & 4.6) and Mineland (12.0) are joined in double figures by 6-5 SF Foster (11.5), while a pair of sophomores, the 6-9 McCarthy (7.4 & 5.50 and the 6-7 Renfro (6.2 & 4.4) add some size in the frontcourt. Santa Clara: The Broncos had high hopes of making some noise in the West Coast with all five starters back from last year but they played poorly at BYU in an 89-59 loss in the team's WCC opener (had gone 6-7 in non-conference play). Santa Clara will have to tighten its defense, after BYU connected on 53.3% of its shots.Brownridge (18.4-3.6-3.1) and pG hauser (10.9 & 5.5 APG) are an excellent guard duo plus the 6-8 Kratch (10.3 & 6.2) is the team's top frontcourt player.cell
The pick: The Dons have played much better so far but under new head coach Herb Sendek (of NC State & Arizona St. fame), the Broncos may just be the better team. Santa Clara is an 8* play.
|12-31-16||NC-Wilmington v. Towson +2.5||Top||76-67||Loss||-110||3 h 41 m||Show|
The set-up: The 11-2 UNC-Wilmington Seahawks. will visit the 8-5 Towson Tigers as both teams open their respective CAA seasons. The Seahawks tied for the league's regulation title last year, tehen won the conference tourney before losing their first NCAA game to finish 25-8. The Tigers won 20 games last season and lost in their first game of the Vegas 16 Tourney. UNC-Wilmington: The Seahawks saw their eight-game win streak snapped in an 87-73 defeat at the Clemson Tigers on Dec. 28. However, it's been a strong start (11-2) to the 2016-17 season for Wilmington. The Seahawks lost 5th-year senior Parker (11.4) from last yerr's team but four starters returned. Guard Bryce (18.1 & 4.5) leads in scoring, joined on the perimeter by Flemmings (16.8 & 5.8) and PG Ingram (13.5 &. 5.7 APG). The 6-7 Cacok (13.2 & 9.0) is the team's top frontcourt performer.The Seahawks have been an excellent offensive team so far, averaging 87.7 PPG (14th) on 49.5 percent shooting (19th). Towson: The Tigers could be considered an under the radar school but head coach Pat Skerry has really made a difference at this school. The Tigers' 42 CAA wins the last four seasons are tied with Northeastern for the most by any school and when one considers that in the previous 10 seasons (including Skerry's first with Towson), the Tigers had won a total of just 42 leagues games, one should get the picture! Four of five starters return from last year, led by guard Morsell (17.6 & 4.2). There are three other double digit scorers so far this season, the 6-6 Adela Moto (12.8 & 6.1), guard Morman (10.9) and SF Davis, who typically comes off the bench but averages 10.8 PPG and a team-leading 7.0 RPG. The pick: While it's hard to find too many flaws in UNC-Wilmington's resume so far, the underdog has covered the spread in 14 of the last 16 meetings between these two schools. That means I'll make the home dog (Towson) an 8* play.
|12-30-16||Arizona v. California||Top||67-62||Loss||-110||15 h 39 m||Show|
The set-up: The 18th-ranked Arizona Wildcats open Pac-12 play with a visit to Berkeley on Friday night to take on the 9-3 California Golden Bears. The Wildcats have played only one game on their opponent's home court this season (won 79-60 at Missouri) and the Bears had their 27-game home winning streak snapped by 12th-ranked Virginia in a 56-52 loss in Cal's last non-conference contest on Dec. 21. Arizona: It hasn't been smooth sailing for Arizona so far, as the team's top returning scorer (Allonzo Trier at 14.8 PPG) has not played all season because of an unspecified eligibility issue plus starting PG Parker Jackson-Cartwright (8.0 & 5.3 APG) has missed the past four weeks with a high ankle sprain. There is a chance Jackson-Cartwright will return for the Cal game. but head coach Sean Miller said, "We really don't know. He tried to practice Monday for the first time in a month. Whether he plays this weekend remains to be seen." Arizona has remained in the top-25 thanks to the contributions of three freshmen, the 7-0 Lauri Markkanen (16.1 & 7.3) plus gaurds Rawle Alkins (12.4 & 5.4) and Kobi Simmon (12.2). They are the team's top three scorers. California: The Bears lost Wallace (15.3-5.4-4.4) and Brown (14.6 & 5.4) to graduation from last year plus Mathews (13.5) was a graduate transfer and now plays at Gonzaga. Freshman PG Charlie Moore has started all 12 games and averages a team-best 16.1 PPG (also 3.3 APG) with the top-two returning players being the 6-10 Rabb (14.6 & 9.2) and 6-5 senior wing Jabari Bird. Bird's been an underachiever up until now and missed six games following the season opener due to back spasms but appears fully healthy at this time, averaging 15.7 PPG and 5.7 RPG.
The pick: Cal beat Arizona 74-73 in Berkeley last season when the Wildcats were ranked No. 12 and as head coach Cuonzo Martin says, "Anytime you play at home, it gives you a level of confidence. But Arizona, they've been in hostile atmospheres and tough environments. I don't think they'll be fazed by the stage." However, as noted, this will be only Arizona's second true road game this season, while Cal is 8-1 at home, outscoring opponents 73.9-to-58.2 PPG. Make Cal a 10* play.
|12-30-16||76ers +11.5 v. Nuggets||Top||124-122||Win||100||13 h 41 m||Show|
The set-up: The 7-24 Philadelphia 76ers are coming off a 100-83 loss at Utah on Thursday (Embiid was held out) and will conclude their four-game road trip (0-3 so far) in Denver against the 14-18 Nuggets, who are 5-2 since suffering a 20-point loss in Dallas back on Dec. 12.
Philadelphia: Embiid is showing why he was the No. 3 overall pick in 2014 out of Kansas (after sitting out his first two seasons), leading the team with 18.7 PPG, 7.4 RPG and 2.38 BPG (that ranks fourth in the league). However, he is still working on his stamina and sat out Thursday's game against the Jazz to rest his sore right foot. That gave third-string center Nerlens Noel a chance to play extended minutes and he delivered 14 points in 22 minutes. Ersan Ilyasova led the way for Philadelphia with 16 points in Thursday’s loss and Dario Saric matched Noel with 14. Philly is one of teh NBA's least productive offensive teams, averaging 98.2 PPG (27th) on 43.6 percent shooting (28th).
Denver: A return to full health and a lineup change has been two keys to Denver's recent turnaround. Guard Gary Harris missed 16 games with a foot injury but his insertion into the starting lineup is making a difference (he's scored in double digits in six of Denver's last seven games) and so has the 6-10 Nikola Jokic. In fact, Jokic may be the biggest reason for Denver resurgence, as he's shooting 67 percent since returning from a left wrist sprain Dec. 7 and he has been the Nuggets' do-everything player. Denver is averaging 113.9 points over its last seven games and boasts six players averaging double figures in scoring, including power forward Nikola Jokic (12.0), who owns six double-doubles in his past 11 contests. SFs Gallinari (16.9) and Chandler (16.4 & 7.0) are the team's best scorers, with guard Barton (14.2) close behind.
The pick: The Nuggets seem to be jelling but this is a pretty 'hefty' pointspread. The 76ers don't often win on te hed (or anywhere for that matter) but in their last visit to Denver (March 23rd of last season), they led the Nuggets by two before Emmanuel Mudiay hit an improbable shot near half-court at the buzzer, as the Nuggets walked off the floor with a 104-103 victory. I'm taking the big points and making Philly a 10* play.
|12-30-16||Norfolk State v. Bowling Green -10||Top||77-86||Loss||-105||6 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: The 3-10 Norfolk State Spartans and the 5-7 Bowling Green Falcons meet Friday afternoon in a non-conference matchup at the Stroh Center. Both schools will begin league play after the 1st of the new year.
Norfolk State: The Spartans likely can't wait to begin MEAC play, after going 12-4 last season. The team has won 73 percent of its league games in head coach Robert Jones' first three seasons, continuing the team's winning tradition. The Spartans have gone .500 or better for 18 consecutive seasons in MEAC action (8th-longest streak in the nation) and last year's team played in a postseason tourney for the fifth straight time. However, Norfolk has had to replace a trio of guards who all scored in double digits and accounted for 54 percent of the team's points, while making 170 of the team's 242 three-pointers. Wade is pretty much a "one-man show" this year, averaging 19.5 PPG and 5.8 RPG., although four others score between 7.0 and 9.9 PPG. Putting points on the board has been a chore in non-conference play, as the Spartans average just 65.3 PPG (322nd) on 40.5 percent shooting (317th).
Bowling Green: Louis Orr's seven-year run at the school ended in 2014-15 season and then Chris Jans' tenure ended abruptly (after a 21-win season) due to some off-court misbehavior. The Falcons were 16-18 in Michael Huger's first season and he believes this year's team will compete much better. The Falcons did lose their top player from last year in Parker (14.0 & 5.1) plus PG Joseph but returned a trio of senior guards in Alcegaire (13.1), Denny (12.4 & 5.7) and Ali (6.4 & 5.6 APG). BG will also own the best big man in today's game, the 6-10 Wiggins (8.9 & 7.2).
The pick: Bowling Green plays its best ball at home and has played decent defense at home so far, allowing just 40.1 percent shooting on its home court. The should match up well against the Spartans, who just can't seem to get anything going offensively this season. Norfolk St. is 0-7 in true road games so far and will enter this contest on a 10-game road losing streak. Make it 11 in a row and lay the points with the Falcons, as Bowling Green is an 8* play.
|12-29-16||Southern Illinois +2 v. Bradley||Top||51-60||Loss||-110||12 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: It's the MVC opener for both 7-6 Southern Illinois and 5-9 Bradley tonight in Peoria. Bradley is coming off an 'ugly' first season under head coach Brian Wardle (5-27, 3-15 in MVC play) while the Salukis were 22-10, including 11-7 in league play. Southern Illinois: SIU lost leading scorer Beane (19.3 PPG) from last year but sophomore guard Fletcher has stepped up nicely, leading the team with 14.5 PPG. P Senior PG Rodriguez (13.8 & 5.2) runs the show with fellow senior Vincent (9.2 PPG) a solid player in the backcourt. Up front, it's the 6-7 O.Brien (11.0 & 7.6) joined by 6-8 JUCO transfer Bol (9.5 & 6.6). The Salukis are looking for some more consistent play but all in all, this team isn't bad at all.
Bradley: The Braves were one of just three teams last ye warith 10 freshman and no one player averaged in double digits. Ironically, it's freshman guard Brown, who is this year's lone double digit scorer at a modest 11.6 PPG. The pick: Bradley is a mess, coming in having lost three in a row while scoring only 51, 49 and 42 points, respectively. As noted, while SIU is nothing special, the Salukis are a solid team and won't miss this chance to open league play with a win. SIU is a 10* play.
|12-29-16||Long Beach State +6.5 v. Eastern Michigan||Top||72-98||Loss||-105||3 h 60 m||Show|
The set-up: Long Beach State is back out on the road and will visit 7-5 Eastern Michigan in a Thursday afternoon contest. As per usual, Don Monson had his 49ers play one of the nation's toughest non-conference slates and Long Beach is 5-10, as it plays its final non-conference game, here.
|12-28-16||Bucks +4 v. Pistons||Top||119-94||Win||100||11 h 58 m||Show|
The set-up: The Milwaukee Bucks began a four-game road trip Monday in Washington and gave away a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead to the Wizards in a 107-102 loss, dropping them to 14-15. The road trip continues tonight in Detroit plus also includes stops at Minnesota and Chicago. The Pistons snapped a five-game losing streak on Monday, never trailing in a 105-90 win over the LBJ-less Cavaliers. Detroit returns home at 15-18 to host the Bucks, a team it has beaten four in a row.
Milwaukee: "We're going to learn and we're going to get better from this. It's not easy to win on the road. We put ourselves in a position to win. We just didn't close the door" said Bucks head coach Jason Kidd of the late meltdown against the Wizards.The Bucks were missing three players on Monday, forward Mirza Teletovic (concussion protocol), swingman Rashad Vaughn (sprained ankle) and guard Steve Novak (illness). However, teh bigger isue for Milwaukee has been getting production outside of Giannis Antetokounmpo (23.4-9.1-5.8) and Jabari Parker (19.9 & 5.7), as no other player is scoring in double figures. Detroit: The Pistons have played the NBA's two-best teams their last two games and Stan Van Gundy made a lineup change. Power forward Jon Leuer entered the starting-five and Tobias Harris became the sixth man. The Pistons were tied with the Golden State Warriors with under two minutes remaining before falling 119-113 on Friday and then came Monday's rout of the Cavs, albeit without LBJ. Harris (16.1) has thrived in his sixth-man role, averaging 23.5 PPG in the last two games plus the defense held Cleveland to 90 points, after allowing an avergae of 111.4 PPG during its five-game skid. Harris leads six double-digit Detroit scorers, with backup PG Ish Smith just missing out (9.2 PPG). The pick: The Pistons have won four in a row in this series but I don't want to make too much of an easy win over Cleveland, which played without LBJ. Detroit's defense has "lost its way" and I want no part of them as any kind of a favorite. Milwaukee is a 10* play.
|12-28-16||Nebraska +17 v. Indiana||Top||87-83||Win||100||10 h 52 m||Show|
The set-up: The 16th-ranked Indiana Hoosiers were 10-2 in non-conference play and begin defense of their Big Ten regular-season championship on Wednesday when 6-6 Nebraska visits Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers have breezed through their non-conference home schedule unblemished with nine victories by an average of 30.8 PPG and the school's 26-game home winning streak represents the fifth-longest streak in program history and fourth best among active streaks in the country.Meanwhile, the Cornhuskers have lost both of their road games, 89-72 at No. 3 Kansas and 60-58 at Clemson. Nebraska: The Cornhuskers knew they would lose swingman and leading scorer Shields (16.8) this year but when Andrew White (16.6) decide to play his final season at Syracuse, as a graduate transfer, Tim Miles’ team took a big hit. Miles got Nebraska to the NCAA tourney in his second season at the school but these last two years, Nebraska has won just 13 and 16 games. Four-year starter. 6-4 combo guard Tai Webster (17.0-5,1-4.0) is the team's best player. Glynn Watson Jr. ranks second on the team in scoring (12.6) and the only other playe in double digits is the 6-7 Morrow (10.3 & 8.4). Nebraska will have to find a way to slow down the Hoosiers, who average 88.8 PPG (10th) on 51.9% shooting (5th), as the Cornhuskers don't score much (PPG). Indiana: The Hoosiers are again one of the nation's most explosive offenses, starting three guards, led by Blackmon 18.5 & 5.4), who is joined by Johnson (13.8) and PG Newkirk (7.8 & 3.8 APG). Up front, it's the 6-8 Anunoby (12.0 & 6.3) and 6-10 center Bryant (12.0 & 7.8). The Hoosiers are shooting .401 from 3-point range (117 of 292), making an average of 9.75 3-pointers per game. Indiana is also a strong defensive club, holding opponents to 66.0 PPG. The pick: The Hoosiers swept the Cornhuskers last season with a pair of double-digit victories but the play here is to take the points with Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are a 10* play.
|12-28-16||Houston +1.5 v. Connecticut||Top||62-46||Win||100||6 h 22 m||Show|
The set-up: The Huskies were ranked 18th in the AP’s preseason poll but as the calendar gets set to turn to 2017, the 5-6 Huskies have six losses before the turn of the new year for the first time since the 1971-72 season. UConn looks for a fresh start with the beginning of conference play, when the Huskies host the 9-3 Houston Cougars in the American Athletic Conference opener for both teams late Wednesday afternoon in Hartford, Conn.
Houston: The Cougars are a veteran team, coming off a 22-win season. They are led in scoring by junior guard Rob Gray (20.1 PPG), while senior Damyean Dotson is second in scoring at 14.8 and is also the team's leading rebounder at 7.2 PPG. 6-7 forward Davis averages 11.1 & 6.5 but he's missed the last four games with finger and foot injuries and is questionable here. The team's fourth double digit scorer is the 6-10 Knowles, averaging 10.9 & 4.0. Houston averages 80.5 PPG (57th) but also leads the AAC and is ranked third nationally by hitting 42.9 percent of its three-point shots.
UConn: The Huskies are down to eight scholarship players because of season-ending injuries to freshman PG Alterique Gilbert (shoulder), freshman forward Mamadou Diarra (knee) and sophomore swingman Terry Larrier (knee). Larrier was averaging 13.5 PPG and Gilbert 10.3 PPG. Sophomore guard Adams (16.6-4.5-5.5) has made big strides from last year (7.3 PPG) and Rodney Purvis (12.8 & 4.8) has proven to be a reliable double digit scorer, now in his third season after transferring from NC State. UConn keeps hoping 7-0 center Amida Brimah will have a breakout season but it’s his senior year and his current 6.9 & 5.3 numbers say, it’s just more of the same. The pick: The Huskies are coming off a 70-67 overtime loss to Auburn when they played the majority of the second half and overtime without star guard Jalen Adams, who suffered a gash on his head and a concussion. Adams is expected to play against the Cougars. "When we come back (from the holiday) we've got to make sure we execute the game plan," Ollie told reporters. "Shoot a little bit better, also hit the rebounds and feed our big guys. That starts with me as a coach, demanding that." That all sounds good but this UConn team looks to be in big trouble. Houston is a 10* play.
|12-27-16||Michigan State +5.5 v. Minnesota||Top||75-74||Win||100||14 h 44 m||Show|
The set-up: Tom Izzo's Michigan State team opened the season ranked 12th in the AP's preseason poll but gets set to open Big Ten play tonight in Minnesota just 8-5 and minus its best player, 6-7 freshman guard Miles Bridges. Michigan State was hoping Bridges, the team's leading scorer (16.6 points) and rebounder (8.8), could be back for this game after missing the last five games with a foot injury, but Izzo terms it "very doubtful." Meanwhile, coming off an 8-23 season last year (including 2-16 in Big Ten games), Richard Pitino's Gophers are a surprising 12-1! Michigan State: The Spartans were expected to be a top-25 team all season long, but injuries and youth have made it difficult for coach Tom Izzo's team to be consistent. In Bridges' absence, fellow freshmen, the 6-8 Nick Ward (13.2 & 6.4) and PG Cassius Winston (7.5 & 6.0 APG), have stepped forward into more prominent roles. Guard Harris (13.4 PPG) is the top scoring backcourt player with Bridges out but Izzo does have depth on the perimeter, as including Winston, six guards other than Harris combine to average right around 31 PPG. Minnesota: Pitino won the NIT back in 2013-14 (his first year at Minnesota) but then came an 18-15 (6-12 in the Big Ten) season and then last year's 'nightmare.' Pitino features a four-guard rotation, with Mason (13.2) as the team's leading scorer, along with McBrayer (12.6), Coffey (11.9) and Springs (9.3). The 6-6 Murphy (10.5 & 7.1) is the team's leading rebounder joined up front by 6-10 center Lynch (8.5 & 6.2) and the 6-9 Curry (6.7 & 6.2).
The pick: The Gophers lost by eight points on this floor in last season’s Big Ten opener, when Michigan State was ranked No. 1 and Minnesota was on its way to losing its first 13 Big Ten games. The shoe seems to be on the other foot now, with Minnesota 12-1 and MSU unranked at just 8-5 plus without its best player. However, Izzo continues to tinker with his team's lineup and he may continue to do so until Bridges returns and beyond. Izzo has used 10 different players in his starting lineup in the first 13 games as he continues to try to find the right combination to get the Spartans playing their best. Based on "past history," he seems to find a way. Izzo plus points against "little Ricky?" Make Michigan State a 10* play.
|12-26-16||Pacers +1.5 v. Bulls||Top||85-90||Loss||-110||10 h 36 m||Show|
The set-up: The Pacers and Bulls meet for the third time this season on Monday night with the series even at one win apiece. The Pacers are 15-16 and the Bulls 14-16, with the Pacers currently holding down the East's eighth and final playoff spot and the Bulls sitting just a half-game back on Indiana. Indiana: The Pacers expect to welcome back veteran guard Rodney Stuckey, who has missed the past five games because of a sore left hamstring. Stuckey participated fully in practice Friday and Saturday. He is averaging 9.5 points a game and provides coach Nate McMillan with a dependable option off the bench. However, guard Monta Ellis will likely will remain sidelined because of soreness in his groin. He has averaged 9.7 points in 24 games (23 starts) this season. This is Paul George's (21.7-7.0-3.2) team but Jeff Teague (acquired from a trade with the Hawks) has played well at PG with 15.3 PPG and 7.3 APG plus the 6-11 Turner (15.9 & 7.3) has made excellent strides in his second season.The Pacers are below average in both scoring (104.5 PPG ranks 17th) and in defending, allowing 106.3 PPG (20th). Chicago: The "new-look" Bulls have not shown any consistency in the first half of the season, as they enter off three straight losses and losses in six of their past seven to drop to a season-worst two games below .500. Guard Michael Carter-Williams could return to the court for his fourth game of the season tonight. He has been out since injuring his left wrist and left knee Oct. 31 against Brooklyn. Carter-Williams averaged 11.5 points and 5.2 assists per game with the Milwaukee Bucks alst season and averaged 16.7 points as a rookie with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2013-14 and would boost the Bulls' backcourt depth behind Wade (19.2) and Rondo (7.8-6.5-7.2. Butler's (24.3-6.6-4.2) having an All Star season but this year's team is not better without Rose and Noah (both in New York) or Gasol (in San Antonio).
The pick: The Pacers are just 4-11 SU & ATS on the road but this Chicago team is in a funk, going 1-7 its last eight ATS. No reason to lay any amount of points with the Bulls these days. Indiana is an 8* play.
|12-26-16||Cavs v. Pistons -6||Top||90-106||Win||100||9 h 2 m||Show|
incorrectly entered pick
|12-25-16||Wolves v. Thunder -5||Top||100-112||Win||100||12 h 7 m||Show|
The set-up: The 9-20 Minnesota Timberwolves will be in OKC Christmas night to take on the 18-12 Thunder. The fact that the T-wolves landed a spot on the Christmas slate coming off a 29-53 record last year is a testament to the level the Timberwolves were expected to reach this season. However, Minnesota has struggled to reach its projected potential through its first 29 games. With Durant in Oakland, the Thunder are about where they were expected to be, so far. Minnesota: The Timberwolves have young talent that has been playing well individually in Anthony Towns (22.1 & 11.4), Wiggins (21.7 & 4.2) and LaVine (21.4) but head coach Tom Thibodeau is trying to teach his team to win consistently in the NBA. "There's stretches where we play well defensively. And you have to play well on both ends," Thibodeau said. "It's too hard to win in this league. Until we understand that, it's going to be up and down. We got to correct that." Minnesota missed out on a chance to post its first three-game winning streak of the season on Friday but despite Zach LaVine's career-best 40 points, the Timberwolves crumbled in the fourth quarter of a 109-105 home loss to Sacramento. Minnesota brought in Thibodeau to mold its young roster and he is trying hard to get them to understand that consistent effort on defense is the key to winning games.However, the effort against the Kings (Sacramento 52.5 percent from the floor and made 15 three-pointers), is happening too frequently. Oklahoma City: Westbrook used to share closing duties with Kevin Durant but this season he has been doing it on his own for the most part. That was the case Friday when the Thunder held on to beat the Boston Celtics 117-112 on the road behind 46 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists from Westbrook. It was his 14th triple double of the season and third straight game scoring more than 40 points. Westbrook leads the NBA in scoring (31.8) and is second in assists (10.8), plus averages 10.5 RPG. Of his 51 career triple doubles, six have come when he has poured in at least 40 points. Only Oscar Robertson (22) and Wilt Chamberlain (7) have more. The two-headed center duo of Kanter (12.8 & 6.1) and Adama (11.5 & 7.6) is effective but OKC needs Oladipo (16.1 & 4.5) to get back on the court (he's out indefinitely with a wrist injury and has now missed six games).
The pick: Thibodeau is a proven and has that wonderful young trio but something just isn't right. Lay the points and make OKC a 10* play.
|12-25-16||Illinois State v. Tulsa +5.5||Top||68-56||Loss||-110||10 h 2 m||Show|
The set: Tulsa and Illinois State will meet for the second time in 19 days when they play for third place Sunday at the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu. Tulsa hosted the Redbirds back on Dec. 7 and trailed by as many as 14 points in the second half before the Golden Hurricane closed the game with a 13-3 run to take the 70-68 victory. Tulsa is just 6-5 to open the new season and Illinois St. checks in at 7-4. Illinois State: The Redbirds have strong frontcourt, led by th 6-8 Hawkins (15.0 & 7.1), who is joined by the 6-7 McIntosh (13.6 & 6.7) and the 6-9 Fayne (10.5 & 6.1). PG Lee (14.4 & 6.5 APG) is the the team's fourth double digit scorer. Hawkins had his worst game of the season in that game at Tulsa, going 3-for-15 from the floor while scoring just 10 points. He wasn't much better in Friday's loss to San Francisco, connecting on 5-for-17 and scoring 12 points. McIntosh had double-double in the semifinals (20 & 12) but he's also struggled with his accuracy on the island, making just 9-for-27 in the two games. Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane haven't received consistent performances from their top players in Hawaii, as after an easy win over SF Austin, they got blitzed by San Diego State, 82-63. Tulsa has a four-man guard rotation in Hawkins (12.8 & 5.7), Birt (9.3), Taplin (7.9) and Henderson (7.0). The 6-7 Etou (11.1 & 6.5) is the team's best frontcourt player with Magnay providing size at 6-10 but not much production (6.7 & 4.0). Wheeler has only attempted 14 shots in the two games, while second-leading scorer Etou scored 18 against San Diego State but was held to two points in the Diamond Head opener against Stephen F. Austin.
The pick: Neither team played well in the first meeting but Tulsa was able to earn the comeback win despite Wheeler shooting 3 of 9 and Birt, 1 of 10. In the rematch, expect Tulsa to win much more easily plus we're getting points! Tulsa is a 10* play.
|12-25-16||Celtics -2.5 v. Knicks||Top||119-114||Win||100||4 h 58 m||Show|
The set-up: The 17-13 and 16-13 NY Knicks open the NBA's 5-game Christmas Day 'marathon' with a 12;05 ET tip-off at Madison Square Garden. These teams met in Boston back on Nov. 11 withe the Celtics rolling over the Knicks, 115-87. The Knicks are 22-28 on Christmas and the Celtics are 12-17. In seven Christmas Day meeting s between teh two teams, the Celtics are 4-3 against the Knicks.
Boston: The Celtics are 13-9 since Isaiah Thomas (27.0 & 6.3 APG) scored 29 points in the win over New York back on Nov. 11. However, Boston had a four-game winning streak stopped in a 117-112 home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday. Thomas scored 15 points in a span of 4:33 in the fourth quarter as the Celtics eliminated a nine-point deficit. Boston held a four-point lead with 3:37 remaining but Thomas had one basket and the Celtics were outscored 17-6 the rest of the game.Thomas' backcourt partner Bradley is the team's second-leading scorer at 17.8 PPG and its leading rebounder at 7.3 per game. Center Horford (15.7-7.0-5.0) and SF Crowder (12.9 & 5.1) have been back on the court for awhile now, getting over early-season injury issues. NY Knicks: The Knicks are off a 106-95 home win over the Orlando Magic last Thursday, when six players scored in double figures. Anthony (22.5 & 6.0) and the 7-3 Porzingis (19.9 & 7.6) are New York's best players, with newcomers like Rose (16.8-4.0-4.7), Lee (10.0) and Noah (4.7 & 7.9) providing inconsistent levels of production. One of Porzingis' worst games this season occurred last month in Boston, when he shot 5-of-15 in a that 115-87 loss on Nov. 11. Carmelo Anthony was also ejected from that game and six technical fouls were whistled against the Knicks, who are eager for better results against their longtime rival. "It's going to be like a redemption game for us," Porzingis said. "We didn't play well (last month) and all the other stuff wasn't going our way, it was just a tough game for us. We want it. We want it especially at home. We want to redeem ourselves."
The pick: The Knicks will be primed to win here and they are 11-4 SU & ATS at home this year. However, Celtics are a money-making 12-5-1 ATS on the road and have matched up well in this series lately, have won seven of the last eight meetings and three of the past four in Madison Square Garden. Make Boston an 8* play.
|12-23-16||Raptors -1.5 v. Jazz||Top||104-98||Win||100||13 h 36 m||Show|
The set-up: The 20-8 Toronto Raptors own the third-best road winning percentage (.750) in the NBA, behind San Antonio and Golden State. The Raptors have won five consecutive games outside of Canada by an average margin of 13.0 PPG and will visit Salt Lake City Friday night to take on the 18-12 Jazz, who after establishing themselves as contenders in the Western Conference with wins in 11 of 13 games, have suffered back-to-back losses, 104-74 at Golden St. and 94-93 at home to the Kings. Toronto: DeMar DeRozan (27.9-5.1-4.1) had a string of four straight games scoring 30 or more points come to an end when he was held to 15 on 6-of-20 shooting against Brooklyn on Tuesday but the Raptors still cruised to a 116-104 triumph. Toronto is displaying scoring options beyond DeRozan and point guard Kyle Lowry (21.2-4.6-7.4), who is averaging 22.8 points on 55.2 percent shooting, including 56 percent from beyond the arc in December. Ross (10.7), Patterson (7.6 & 5.8), Cory Joseph (8.9) and Powell (7.0) give the Raptors one of the best reserve units in the NBA plus let’s not forget starting center Valanciunas, averaging 12.3 & 9.8. The Raptors have scored at least 100 points in 15 consecutive games and ranks third in scoring (112.3 PPG) and second in FG percentage (47.9%). Utah: The Jazz were beaten at their own game when the Warriors showed off their defense in a 104-74 drubbing on Tuesday. They then squandered a 20-point lead and fell at home 94-93 to the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday. "We should have never been in that situation," Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward told reporters. "I think we've done this, what, four or five times now this season? This one finally came back to bite us. You can't keep blowing 20-point leads and win every single time. This one stings for sure." Utah is piecing together the backcourt due to various injuries and was without starting point guard George Hill (toe), starting shooting guard Rodney Hood (illness) and backup point guard Dante Exum (knee) on Tuesday. The Jazz are hoping to get Exum and Hood back quickly while Hill, who is averaging 20 points and 4.2 assists but missed the last 11 games, is back practicing and could be cleared to return on Friday. Defense has been the one constant, as Utah ranks first in points allowed (94.9 per) and opponents’ FG percentage (42.6%). The pick: Now here’s the rub. The Raptors have won 12 of their last 14 games and look for a sixth straight road win here. Toronto is 9-3 SU and 10-2 ATS on the road this season and is 6-1 against the NBA's top-10 defensive teams this season, averaging 111.4 points in those games. Make Toronto an 8* play.
|12-23-16||Florida AandM v. Wisconsin -37.5||Top||37-90||Win||100||13 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: A 2-10 Florida A&M team travels to Madison, Wi. to take on the 14th-ranked Badgers, who are 10-2 on the season and enter on a six-game winning streak. Florida A&M: The Rattlers are one of the worst defensive teams in the nation, allowing 84.3 PPG (341st) on 47.9 percent overall shooting and 40.8 percent from three-point range. A&M owns a solid frontcourt player in the 6-6 Desmond Williams (16.3 & 5.1), a junior college transfer from Alabama Southern Community College, but they don’t play anyone who stands over 6-8. Guard guard Marcus Barham (11.8 PPG), another JC transfer, is the only other active player averaging double digits in points. The Rattlers are currently without the services of junior guard Craig Bowman, a two-year starter at point guard, who received an indefinite suspension, with no details from the coach or program. Bowman was averaging 13.2 points through five games. Wisconsin: The Badgers opened the year ranked 9th in the AP’s preseason poll and the team's lone losses have come at then-No.2 Creighton (the Bluejays are now No. 9 and unbeaten) and in Maui to then-No.4 North Carolina (now No. 8). Senior guard Koenig (15.2) and 6-8 senior forward Hayes (14.2 & 5.8) are performing as expected but 6-10 sophomore Happ is exceeding expectations, averaging 13.3 & 9.6. The Badgers are always known for their defense and this year is no different, as they allow opponents just 61.2 PPG (20th in the nation). The pick: Florida A&M hasn’t beaten an NCAA team this season and won’t win here at the Kohl Center. Wisconsin is 7-0 at home this season, outscoring opponents 80.1-to-54.4 PPG. The Badgers have won their last six overall games by an average margin of 23.2 points, including five double-digit victories and will keep it rolling against the Rattlers, even though they haven’t played since a 73-58 win against Green Bay back on Dec. 14. Florida A&M’s 83-63 loss at Samford a week ago Thursday marked its ninth straight defeat and the Rattlers won’t stop the bleeding here (A&M is 0-5 on the road, getting outscored 88.8-to-65.8 PPG!). The Badgers have won 13 straight at home, where they are 15-2 since coach Greg Gard took over last December, and Wisconsin is 13-0 against current MEAC teams, including two wins over the Rattlers by a combined 92 points. Lay it and make Wisconsin an 8* play.
|12-23-16||Warriors -6.5 v. Pistons||Top||119-113||Loss||-105||11 h 7 m||Show|
The set-up: The Warriors played in Brooklyn last night without forward Draymond Green, who returned to the Bay Area for the birth of his son. Golden State won 117-101 and heads to Detroit as owners of the NBA’s best record at 26-4. The Pistons lost 98-86 at home to the Grizzlies on Wednesday, the team's fourth straight loss, and host the league’s “super team” at 14-17 overall with head coach Stan Van Gundy considering some lineup changes (how can that be good?). Golden State: The Warriors didn’t Green against the hapless Nets, moving to 14-2 on the road but they are a much more modest 7-8-1 ATS. That said, Thursday night’s game was no cake walk, as the Warriors trailed by 16 points at halftime before outscoring the Nets 68-36 in the second half. All are familiar with the Golden State’s cast of characters, with the Warriors leading the NBA in both scoring (117.4 PPG) and shooting percentage (49.4%). Green's status for the Pistons' game is uncertain though coach Steve Kerr opined that it is possible Green will decide to travel since games in Detroit are viewed as home games by the Michigan native (injury report has him listed as probable). However, everybody expects the highly competitive Green to be back with the team in time for the Christmas Day showdown with the Cavaliers. Detroit: The Pistons actually viewed the team’s 98-86 loss to the Grizzlies as a sign of progress. the reason for that is, the team had allowed an aveggae of 113.3 PPG in its previous three losses. The defensive effort was better but the Pistons shot 36.1 percent from the floor and 26.1 percent from three-point range. "Our guys are just getting so frustrated offensively," Van Gundy said. "We definitely competed hard. There is no question about that. We just couldn't score." Van Gundy planned to make a lineup switch on Wednesday but a car accident postponed that move. Power forward Jon Leuer missed the morning shootaround after being involved in a 45-mile-per-hour collision in which his airbags deployed. Leuer suffered minor injuries but was able to play effectively that night, contributing 18 points and six rebounds in 30 minutes. He will likely replace either Marcus Morris or Tobias Harris in the lineup on Friday. Harris scored just seven points against the Grizzlies, the eighth consecutive game he has produced 15 points or less. Morris has shot 22.9 percent from the field over the last four games, including a 1-for-11 outing against the Grizzlies. The pick: Yes, it’s a back-to-back game situation for the Warriors but the Pistons are a mess right now. PG Jackson briefly departed the game against Memphis when his left knee developed soreness and that raised concerns for everyone as that same knee caused Jackson to miss the season's first 21 games. "I thought I felt something in there, so I wanted to make sure everything was good, then I got back out there," Jackson told reporters. The Pistons are now just 3-7 since PG Jackson's return to the lineup, something that was expected to be a plus. These Warriors lost just nine regular season games last season and one of those was a 113-95 victory by these Pistons over the Warriors last Jan. 16. here in Detroit. However, that win ended a nine-game losing streak in the series. Lay the points with the warriors and make them an 8* play.
|12-22-16||Missouri State v. USC -9||Top||75-83||Loss||-115||14 h 49 m||Show|
The set-up: Missouri State is off to an 8-3 start and will match up with a nationally ranked team for the first time this season on Thursday when the Bears face undefeated No. 23 USC in the semifinals of the Las Vegas Classic at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. "We're excited to go on the road," said Jarrid Rhodes, who recently moved into the starting lineup for Missouri State. "This is a great opportunity for us, going to play a top-25 team. I think we still have some things to work on, but I feel like, overall, we'll be ready." Missouri State: The Bears return four of five starters, losing only the 6-6 Boone (12.2 & 6.5). Guards Rousseau (13.2) and Miller (11.3 & 4.0 APG) both score in double digits, as does the 6-9 Johnson (12.5 & 9.0). Rousseau and Johnson are both JUCO transfers and have made quite an early impression. Guard Austin Ruder missed all but the first five games last season because of a hip injury and averages 6.9 PPG, scoring mostly from beyond the three-point arc. As mentioned at the top, guard Rhodes (5.5 & 3.5) has recently moved into the starting lineup. Missouri St. is a solid defensive team (63.5 PPG ranks 36th) but will be tested by the 11-0 Trojans, who average 82.3 PPG (41st). USC: Last year’s 21-win team was quite a step up from a program which had won just six, 14, 11 and 12 games in the previous four seasons. Last season marked head coach Andy Enfield's third year at USC and many will remember him as the man who led Florida Gulf Coast on a Sweet 16 run a few years back. USC’s 11-0 start is its best start since going 16-0 to begin the 1970-71 season (that team went on to finish 24-2). Guards Stewart (15.9 & 5.9), McLaughlin (13.6-3.2-5.2) and Aaron (11.7 & 4.0) lead the Trojans offensively and make up quite trio in the backcourt. 6-11 sophomore Chimezie Metu averages 13.3 points and a team-high 7.8 rebounds and is joined by the 6-11 Rakocevic (6.1 & 4.5) in the starting lineup, as the 6-10 Boatwright (10.8 & 4.0) got hurt after just five games (expected back in mid-January). Freshman guard Melton comes off the bench to score 9.0 PPG and grab 5.5 RPG. The pick: The pressure is starting to build around the Bears’ head coach Paul Lusk (79-93 in his sixth season), as he has not led Missouri State to the type of success it enjoyed under his predecessors Cuonzo Martin, Barry Hinson and Steve Alford, who were a combined 308-206 from 1995 to 2011. This is a chance to earn a “marquee win” but don’t look for that to happen. USC is shooting 49.9 percent from the floor over the last eight games, including 40.2 percent from three-point range and have too much ‘firepower’ for the Bears in this one. Lay the points and make USC a 10* play.
|12-22-16||Spurs v. Clippers +1.5||Top||101-106||Win||100||13 h 15 m||Show|
NOT A PLAY....ENTERED ACCIDENTALLY!
|12-22-16||NC-Greensboro v. Georgetown -12.5||Top||56-78||Win||100||9 h 4 m||Show|
The set-up: UNC-Greensboro is off to a 9-3 start, giving the Spartans their second best-start since becoming a Division I program 25 years ago. The Spartans travel to Washington D.C. tonight to take on Georgetown, who after a poor 1-4 start (the lone win came over Oregon, though), has won five in a row to reach 7-4. UNC-Greensboro: The Spartans were just 15-19 last season but four of five starters returned, losing only SF Locke, although he averaged 12.6 PPG and 5.4 RPG. The Spartans have used a balanced attack on offense and solid defense to get off to their 9-3 start. Four players score in double digits, guards Alonzo (12.6) and Baldwin (11.8-3.8-4.), as well as the 6-6 Smith (11.8 & 4.8) and the 6-9 White (10.8 & 5.2). As for that defense, UNCG allows a modest 62.2 PPG to rank 28th. Georgetown: The Hoyas were 15-18 last year but lost just one starter, albeit Smith-Rivera (16.2-3.6-4.5) was the team's best player. 6-5 guards Pryor (20.5 & 4.9), who is a Robert Morris transfer, and Peak (16.8-4.4-3.4) dominate the headlines and play better than 30 minutes per game but the remainder of head coach Thompson’s roster is a mixed bag with no real standouts. He is having a difficult time settling on a center as the 6-10 Jessie Govan (9.9 & 5.2) and the 7-0 Bradley Hayes (6.0 & 6.1) have each gotten a chance to play extended minutes this season. Hayes was the man in late November, averaging 8.3 points and 7.5 rebounds but Govan reemerged after a solid start to the season with three straight games in double figures, including 12 points and 10 rebounds against Syracuse. The pick: Georgetown's’ 78-71 win over former Big East rival Syracuse on the road was a big boost and the Hoyas take a five-game winning streak into this game. Remember though, even in Georgetown’s rough 1-4 start, that lone win came over Oregon, which was No. 5 in the AP’s preseason poll and currently ranks 20th at 10-2. The Hoyas have talent and although they are 0-4 ATS at home this year, they are averaging 85.0 PPG on their home floor, while allowing just 67.3 PPG. Make Georgetown an 8* play.
|12-22-16||Stephen F Austin +4 v. Tulsa||Top||51-74||Loss||-108||7 h 4 m||Show|
The set-up: the Diamond Head Classic from Honolulu, Hawaii opens Thursday with four first round games. The first of the four will be the 4-5 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks taking on the 5-4 Tulsa Golden Hurricane. Stephen F. Austin: The Lumberjacks have won the last three Southland Conference titles, advancing to the Big Dance each year under head coach Brad Underwood. Twice, the Lumberjacks won their first-round game in the NCAAs, including last year’s upset of third-seeded West Va. Underwood was an amazing 89-14 these last three seasons and used that resume to get the job at Oklahoma State, which fired Travis Ford. Taking over is Kyle Keller, who has just wrapped up his fifth season as an assistant coach on head coach Billy Kennedy’s staff at Texas A&M, bringing his grand total of coaching experience to an even 25 years at locations also including Kansas, Oklahoma State, Louisiana Tech and Texas-San Antonio. It’s been tough going so far this season (4-5 start), as all three double digit scorers from last year’s team are gone, led by Walkup, who averaged 18.1 PPG and 6.9 RPG. Five players are averaging between 9.2 and 13.8 PPG this season, led by guard Canete (13.8) plus forwards Holyfield (12.6 & 7.7) and Gilmore (10.8 & 6.6). Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane won 20 games last year and lost in the NCAA’s First Four. However, four of five starters are gone, including the team's two best players, starting guards Woodard (15.4 & 5.3) and Harrison (15.1-5.5-4.1). Guard Birt is the lone returning starter but after averaging 12.0 PPG last season, he’s scoring a more modest 8.7 PPG to open this season. Guard Wheeler is a JUCO transfer and leads the team with 13.4 PPG and another newcomer, Etou (a 6-7 Rutgers transfer), is averaging 11.3 & 7.0. The pick: Both of these schools made the Big dance last season and in the early going, each is trying to find their identity. No reason not to take the points in this one, as Stephen F. Austin has the more balanced lineup and one gets the feeling that Tulsa is lacking overall direction early on. Stephen F. Austin is an 8* play.
|12-21-16||Rockets -6 v. Suns||Top||125-111||Win||100||11 h 12 m||Show|
The set-up: Houston found the going tough last night at home vs. San Antonio, as the Spurs held them to 100 points in a two-point San Antonio win, dropping the Rockets to 21-8. The Rockets head to Phoenix tonight to take on the 8-20 Suns, who own the Western Conference’s second-worst record, while ranking 28th in points allowed (113.1 PPG). Houston: The Rockets are shooting threes at a record-setting pace this season, having already attempted 1,128. They've made 423, which already is approaching some teams' season total from last year. As noted above, the Rockets got a lot more resistance in their 102-100 home loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night. The Rockets had made at least 10 three-pointers in 27 consecutive games before getting harassed into 6-for-38 shooting from beyond the arc by the Spurs. However, Houston will get a chance to pad its already gaudy three-point-shooting numbers Wednesday night when they run into the suns, one of the league's weakest defensive teams in the NBA. The Rockets saw their 10-game winning streak come to an end.last night, as James Harden shot 1-for-11 from beyond the arc and Eric Gordon went 1-for-8. Phoenix: The Suns have dropped three straight contests (and four of their last five), after a 115-108 loss at Minnesota on Monday. Eric Bledsoe (20.0-5.3-5.3) continued his a strong season Monday, as his 27-point performance against Minnesota marked his ninth effort of 25 or more points this season. The backcourt foursome of Bledsoe, Brandon Knight (21 points), Devin Booker (18) and Leandro Barbosa (10 in 14 minutes) combined for 76 points against the Timberwolves in what proved to be a disappointing effort by the frontcourt. "One thing we know we need to get better at is our toughness," coach Earl Watson told reporters. "That's not a stat. We have to become more feisty because we are small on the perimeter." Booker (18.8) and Knight (12.9) j join Bledsoe in double figures but the only frontcourt player in double digits is SF Warren (15.5 & 3.9). The pick: The Rockets have won each of their last five visits to Phoenix. including 111-105 and 116-100 wins last season. Houston 12-4 ATS on the road this season and after a tough home loss to the Spurs last night, bounces back with a an easy win over the sad-sack Suns in this one. Houston is a 10* play.
|12-21-16||Towson +5 v. Nevada||Top||72-81||Loss||-105||7 h 28 m||Show|
analysis posted shortly
|12-20-16||Jazz v. Warriors -11||Top||74-104||Win||100||27 h 39 m||Show|
full analysis by 12 pm et Tuesday
|12-20-16||Marist v. Delaware -5||Top||56-59||Loss||-110||23 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up: The Marist Red Foxes have lost three in a row to fall to 4-7 on the season and will now travel to the Bob Carpenter Center this Tuesday night to take on the 5-5 Delaware Blue Hens, who are 3-0 SU at home. Marist: The Red Foxes struggled on both ends of the court in the second half of their last game at home with Jacksonville (led 35-33 at the break), allowing the Dolphins to pull away for an 84-65 victory. Jacksonville went on a 16-3 to take a 53-38 lead, as the Dolphins would shoot 51.6% from the floor, including 11-24 from beyond the arc. Defense has been a problem for Marist, as the Red Foxes allow 80.4 PPG (310th) on 46.6 percent shooting (296th). Marist averages a modest 69.6 PPG on 43.2% shooting from the floor. A trio of guards are the lone double digit scorers on the team, with Hart averaging 17.8 PPG, Funk 13.3 PPG and Parker 13.0 PPG. The drop-off from those three is significant, as SF Lamb scores just 5.4 PPG and 6-8 center Brooks only 5.3 PPG. Neither of those frontcourt players rebound well either, as Lamb pulls down a modest 3.1 RPG and Brooks just 3.8 per game. Delaware: The Blue Hens come in off back-to-back losses to fall to 5-5, after being defeated by the Seton Hall Pirates, 81-68, this past Saturday. Leading the way for the Blue Hens was Anthony Mosley who had 21 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, and a steal. Like Marist, Delaware has a trio of guards averaging in double figures, although no one matches Hart. Mosley leads the way at 11.5 PPG but note that both Daly (11.0 & 6.0) and Hayes (11.0 & 4.9) are solid rebounders. So are 6-7 forward Corbett (9.3 & 4.6) and the 6-9 Carter (7.0 & 7.7). Delaware doesn’t score much (67.0 PPG) but is strong on the defense end, allowing 65.7 PPG. The pick: Kevin Hart arguably the best player in the MAAC but Delaware is the much better defensive and rebounding team. In three home games so far, the Blue Hems have outscore opponents 64.0-to-49.0 PPG. Make Delaware an 8* play.
|12-20-16||Youngstown State v. Ohio State -20||Top||40-77||Win||100||23 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up: Youngstown State snapped a two game losing streak by defeating Niagara 101-97 in overtime last Wednesday night, evening its record at 6-6. The Penguins travel to Columbus tonight to take on the 8-3 Ohio State Buckeyes, who are 7-1 SU at home, and whose only home loss was a shocking 79-77 overtime setback to Florida Atlantic back on Dec. 6. Youngstown State: Four of five starters scored in double figures for Youngstown in the win a over Niagara, led by 27 from guard Cameron Morse, who is the team’s leading scorer at 23.8 PPG. Point guard Santiago (13.4-4.5-5.1) is the team’s second-leading scorer, while the two best frontcourt performers are 6-7 forward Donlan (11.8 & 4.7) and 7-1 center Kaufman (7.4 & 7.2). Youngstown State can score (79.8 PPG) but has trouble stopping people on the defensive end, allowing 81.2 PPG (317th). Ohio State: Speaking of defense, the Buckeyes held No. 2 UCLA to 10 points under its season average, but it still wasn’t enough in an 86-73 loss Saturday out in Las Vegas. Ohio State head coach Thad Matta was pleased with a defensive effort that limited the Bruins to their third-lowest scoring output and their second-worst shooting game (48.4 percent) of the season. “I felt that for stretches there we did a really good job defensively on a great offensive team,” Matta told reporters. “The thing that they do is if you make a mistake, they’re going to make you pay for it. We had a couple mistakes, which was probably the difference in the game.” Marc Loving, Jae’Sean Tate and Keita Bates-Diop combined for 47 points on 20-of-36 shooting against UCLA while the rest of the Buckeyes went 9-of-26 from the floor. Forwards Tate (14.0 & 6.8) and Loving (12.2 & 5.2) are the team’s top-two scorers, followed by starting guards Lyle (11.0 & 5.5 APG) and Williams (10.6). 7-0 center Thompson (10.4 & 8.5) comes off the bench, as does the 6-7 Bates-Diop, who just got on the court on Nov 11 and has averaged 9.8 & 4.7 in six games. The pick: Two of the Buckeyes three losses have come to ranked opponents with the other being the exception, that disappointing home loss to Florida Atlantic. the Buckeyes are 7-1 SU at home, outscoring opponents by 15.1 PPG. That’s good enough to make the Buckeyes a 10* play in this one.
|12-19-16||Pistons +3 v. Bulls||Top||82-113||Loss||-115||10 h 21 m||Show|
The 14-14 Detroit Pistons are in Chicago to take on the 13-13 Bulls. The visiting Pistons are off back-to-back blowout losses by a combined 29 points, while the Bulls have lost three consecutive games and six of the past eight. Detroit: Pistons lead the Eastern Conference in scoring defense, allowing an average of 96.9 PPG (3rd-best in the NBA) but they surrendered 113.5 PPG in the last two losses. "We are not playing defense," PG Reggie Jackson told reporters. "That is what it comes down to. We have been a pretty good defensive team throughout the season. We just haven’t been good as of late. We got to figure it out and find a way to string together stops and compete for 48 minutes; understand that there are ups and downs in games and find a way to get wins." Jackson (14.2 & 4.8 APG) was one of the bright spots on Saturday with 19 points and 10 assists in his first double-double since returning to the lineup on Dec. 4. Jackson is one of seven players averaging in double figures, led by SF Harris (16.1 & 4.9) plus center Drummond (14.2 & 14.8). Backup PPG Ish Smith averages 9.4 & 5.9 APG. Chicago: The Bulls’ recent lethargy has prompted critics to ask whether players have tuned out second-year coach Fred Hoiberg. However, Bulls forward Taj Gibson said he and his teammates -- not Hoiberg -- deserved blame for the recent skid. "We're definitely buying into what Fred is telling us, but at the same time Fred isn't on the court," Gibson told the Chicago Sun-Times. "People want to forget that sometimes. We have to do a better job. He's coaching his tail off, and it's hard when you're trying everything possible. You've got to look at the roster. We've got a lot of young guys, man, and not that much experience." Butler (24.8-6.7-4.2) is a bonafide All-Star but Wade (19.5-4.2-3.6) is showing his age and Rondo (8.0-6.4-6.9) is no longer a dominant player. The set-up: The bottom line is these “new-look” Bulls, minus Rose, Gasol and Noah, are NOT a better team than last year. This game marks the second of four meetings between the teams. On Dec. 6 in Auburn Hills, Mich, the Pistons pulled away for a 102-91 win over the Bulls thanks to a team-high 22 points from forward Tobias Harris. The Pistons have fared better during the past few weeks away from home, winning five of their past seven road games.Take the points and make Detroit a 10* play.
|12-19-16||College of Charleston v. LSU -4||Top||65-75||Win||100||10 h 16 m||Show|
The set-up: The College of Charleston has opened 8-3 and visits Baton Rogue to take on the 7-2 LSU Tigers on Monday night. Charleston: The Cougars returned all five starters from last year’s 17-win team but there have been some changes in the early going this season. The 6-5 do-everything Hulsey (5.6-5.7-3.3 last year) has played just five games and remains out with a toe injury. Guard Johnson led in scoring last season at 12.3 PPG but has avenged just 8.0 PPG so far this season. Pointer, another double digit scorer from last year at 11.2 PPG, is down to 5.2 PPG this season. Returning guards Chealey (13.5) and Riller (10.3) are averaging in double digits though, plus the 6-7 Brantley (12.9 & 8.76) is easily the team’ best frontcourt player. LSU: Not only was Ben Simmons (19.2-11.8-4.8) a one-and-done player but LSU also lost guards Hornsby (13.1) and Quarterman (11.2-4.6-3.6) from last year’s underachieving group. Head coach Johnny Jones is under some pressure to get LSU into the Big Dance this season and he told reporters after LSU’s last game, "At the end of the day we have to make sure we continue to improve. I'm not sure we took big steps (on Saturday) but I'd much rather be preparing our team for our next outing after a victory rather than a defeat." Blakeney (16.9 & 4.3) and Sampson (11.7) are the team's best backcourt players with the 6-10 Reath (14.4 & 6.2) and the 6-9 Victor (8.7 & 7.0) performing best up front. The pick: Charleston extended its winning streak to five games by beating East Carolina 53-35 last Thursday, surrendering the least amount of points in a single Division I game in program history. The Cougars will rely on teri defense (58.6 PPG ranks 8th) in trying to hand LSU its first home loss of this season. LSU blew a double-digit halftime lead before rallying to beat Texas Southern the last time out, and has won its last three games overall since dropping two of three contests at the Battle 4 Atlantis in late November. Saturday’s home win over Texas Southern makes LSU 21-1 in non-conference games in Baton Rouge since the start of the 2014-15 season. Throw in the revenge motive of a shocking 70-58 setback to the Cougars on Nov. 30, 2015 and LSU is an 8* play.
|12-19-16||Belmont -6.5 v. Wisc-Milwaukee||Top||62-56||Loss||-105||10 h 15 m||Show|
The set-up: The Belmont Bruins look for a big road victory to get a game above the .500 mark, as they head to Wisconsin a modest 4-4 on the season. Wisconsin-Milwaukee is just 4-8, after after losing five of its last seven games. Belmont: Head coach Rick Byrd won 20 games again last year for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons. He led the Bruins to an NCAA berth in seven of those years. Just one starter was lost from last year but PG Bradshaw (16.4 & 3.2 APG) has been tough to replace. The 6-7 Bradds is back and averaging 21.3 & 10.0 but he’s the lone double digit scorer. However, the Bruins own nice balance, with five players contributing 6.0 to 9.9 PPG. Wisconsin-Milwaukee: The Panthers won 20 games last season but all five starters are gone from that team plus Milwaukee has a new head coach in LaVall Jordan, a former John Beilein (Michigan) assistant getting his first head-coaching gig. The only starter bigger than 6-5 in the 6-7 Nyze (5.7 & 4.4),as guards Wichmann (12.3) and Stull (10.3 & 6.6) are the lone double digit scorers. The pick: The Panthers have had a good recent history but this team and its new head coach needs time to grow. The Panthers could use a win here, entering on a three-game slide, but Belmont will NOT play the perfect foil. There’s a reason the Bruins are a road favorite in this one. Make Belmont a 10* play.
|12-18-16||Georgia State v. Old Dominion -6||Top||46-58||Win||100||7 h 36 m||Show|
The set-up The 6-3 Georgia State Panthers are in Norfolk, Va, to take on the 5-4 Old Dominion Monarchs. The Panthers look to stay hot, having won five of six, while ODU is hoping to snap a mini two-game losing skid. Georgia State: The Panthers made the Big Dance two years ago and upset Baylor but last year’s team won just 16 games. This year’s team is starting to come around but there are just two double digit scorers, the 6-8 Holloway (14.2 & 5.7) and guard Simonds (10.2). Georgia State is scoring 78.4 PPG on 47.9% shooting from the floor. Old Dominion: The Monarchs won the Vegas 16 championship last March and finished with 25 wins. However, gone are leading scorer Freeman (22.1) and guard Bacote (13.1). Returning was the 6-7 Talley but he’s been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. The 6-7 Brandan Stith was the leading returning starter and he’s leads in scoring this year, averaging 13.0 PPG and is also the team’s leading rebounder at 8.1 RPG. A trio of guards round out the biggest contributors in Caver (11.6), Baker (8.6) and B.J. Stith (7.4). ODU is allowing just 58.7 PPG (7th) but doesn’t score, averaging only 59.2 PPG. The pick: Georgia State has yet to win on the road (0-3), allowing 76.3 PPG in those true road games (albeit, against tougher competition than ODU). However, Old Dominion is a solid home team, going 9-3 ATS over its last 12 home games. Make Old Dominion a 10* play.
|12-17-16||Blazers v. Warriors -13.5||Top||90-135||Win||100||20 h 10 m||Show|
The set-up: The 13-15 Portland Trial Blazers haven’t had much recent luck at Oracle Arena but will give it “the old college try” again tonight, when they face the 23-4 Golden State Warriors. Portland: The Blazers’ backcourt duo of Lillard (27.7-4.6-6.0) and McCollum (22.4) is the league’s second-highest scoring duo next to Golden St.’s Durant and Curry and Lillard comes in on a bit of a roll. He'd already had three, 30-point games this month before exploding for 40, two off his season high, in Thursday's loss at Denver. The loss at the Nuggets dropped the Blazers to 5-11 on the road with games still to come against the Warriors and Sacramento Kings on this current road trip. Portland averages 110.1 PPG (4th) but allows 112.2 PPG (28th). Golden State: The Warriors will obviously test that poor Portland defense, as Golden State leads the NBA in both scoring (11.7.3 PPG) and FG percentage (49.4%). Duarnt (25.5-8.4-4.7), Curry (24.9-4.4-5.9), Thompson (21.7) and the do-everything Green (10.8-8.6-7.1) form the NBA’s best quartet, as the Warriors “play together,” as well as any team in the league (better than any team?). Golden State leads the NBA in assists average (31.4 per game) and has handed out at least 30 in 19 different games, going 18-1 in those contests. The Warriors became the first team this season to record assists on over 90 percent of its field goals when they finished with 41 on 45 field goals Thursday. "No one really holds the ball on this team," shooting guard Klay Thompson told reporters. "It’s nice because the ball's always moving. ... That’s the beauty of our team. No one cares about the numbers." The pick: The Warriors are struggling against the number as of late, going 9-2 in their last 11 games SU but just 3-8 ATS. However, Golden State has had Portland’s number here at home recently, having averaged a 16.8-point margin of victory in its four-game regular-season home run over Portland. Golden State has won the last three regular season meetings between the two teams, averaging 130.3 PPG. Lay it and make Golden State a 10* play.
|12-17-16||Indiana State v. Valparaiso -8||Top||71-89||Win||100||18 h 34 m||Show|
The set-up: The 5-5 Indiana State Sycamores take on 8-2 Valparaiso on Saturday night. The Sycamores appeared to be heating up with three straight wins but struggled at both ends of the floor in a 77-59 defeat to Western Kentucky this past Sunday. The Crusaders have been a Horizon power for awhile now and most believe that trend will continue. The Crusaders have won five of six on their way to an 8-2 record, capped off by an 84-81 victory at Missouri State in their last outing. Indiana State: The Sycamores were 15-17 last year and lost leading scorer Brown (15.5 & 4.9) along with the 6-6 Smith (10.0 & 5.2) from last year’s team. Brown’s backcourt partner Scott returns and is the team's lone double digit scorer in the early going, upping his average from 14.6 PPG last season to 19.5 PPG, while adding 5.5 RPG. The team's leading rebounder last year was 6-1 guard Clemons but he’s just behind Scott so far this year at 5.3 RPG plus his 5.3 APG leads the team (Clemons averages 8.0 PPG). Valparaiso: The Crusaders won 30 games last year and the team’s top-three scorers all return. However, head coach Bryce Drew left for Vandy, although the school acted quickly and hired from within, promoting assistant Matt Lottich. The key returnee is the 6-9 Alec Peters, who is off to a great start in his senior season, averaging 25.3 & 9.2. A veteran guard duo complements him well, with senior Hammick (14.6 & 4.8) and junior Walker (10.9 & 5.4). Indiana State is not in Valpo’s class and the Crusader should win, handily Make Valpo a 10* play.
|12-17-16||East Tennessee State v. Morehead State +6||Top||78-68||Loss||-110||12 h 34 m||Show|
The set-up: East Tennessee State will takes its 8-2 record to Morehead, Kentucky to take on the struggling Morehead State Eagles (just 2-7) for a Saturday afternoon tip. ETSU won 24 games last year and Morehead State won 23, making it all the way to the CBI finals, a best-of three event, losing in Game 3 at Nevada, 85-82 in OT. East Tennessee State: The Buccaneers are led by guard T.J. Cromer (16.9 PPG) with seven others chipping in between 6.3 and 9.5 PPG. PG Bradford (9.5-3.9-4.4) is a nice complement to Cromer in the backcourt and ETSU’s frontcourt has been bolstered this year by two transfers. There is the 6-9 Mosquera (8.6 & 5.5) from Indiana and the 6-8 Glass (6.7 & 5.6) from Wichita State. Morehead State: The Eagles are not only off to a rough start with a 2-7 record but head coach Sean Woods has recently resigned following an investigation into alleged physical abuse of his players. The team lost its top-two scorers from last year, although Collins (11.0) and Arrington (10.2) didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard. Through this year’s turmoil, an eight-player rotation sees guys averaging between 5.1 and 12.9 PPG. Guard Moon (12.9) is the top scorer and the 6-6 Marrero (10.3 & 8.0) is the best frontcourt player. The pick: It would be easy to pick against the Eagles right now, as they’ve lost SEVEN in a row but this is much better than its record and expect this home dog to bark loudly in this one. Morehead state is a 10* play.
|12-16-16||Mavs +12 v. Jazz||Top||100-103||Win||100||15 h 48 m||Show|
The set-up: The 6-19 Dallas Mavericks own the worst record in the NBA (actually, they are tied with the 76ers for the worst record) and travel to Salt Lake City Friday night to take on the 16-10 Utah Jazz. The Jazz haven't made the postseason since 2012 but are currently occupying first place in the Northwest Division and are looking very much a Western Conference playoff squad. ax for the Mavs, not so much! Dallas: The Mavs remain without center Andrew Bogut (3.8 & 10.4) who is out with a knee injury and fill-in Salah Mejri went down with an ankle injury against the Pistons. "I hope nothing bad," Mejri told reporters. "We don't need another injured center. We had an X-ray and it didn't show anything bad. We'll see how it is and hope to be good." Injuries have been a season-long issue for the Mavericks, who are without point guard J.J. Barea (16.3 & 5.4 APG) for another month with a calf injury while power forward Dirk Nowitzki (12.2 & 6.4) is sidelined with an Achilles injury, indefinitely. Nowitzki has been out 17 games, Barea has been sidelined for 14 games and Bogut has been out for four contests. PG Deron Williams (12.5 & 6.5 APG also missed eight games with a calf strain earlier in the season. The lack of healthy players has made it tough for Dallas to generate positive momentum. Utah: The Jazz have been devoid of injuries themselves but SG Rodney Hood (16.1) returned from a two-game absence due to a hamstring injury to score 25 points and match his season best of five three-pointers In Wednesday’s 109-89 win over the Thunder. Point guard George Hill (20.0 & 4.2 APG) will likely to sit out for the eighth consecutive game with a toe injury but is moving closer to a return. PF Derrick Favors (9.9 & 6.3) had four points and four rebounds in 13 minutes against the Thunder after missing the previous 13 games with a knee injury Alec Burks (13.3 LY) hasn’t played all season. However, the Jaz have powered through all the injuries led by Hayward (22.9-6.2-3.7) and a defense which ranks first in points allowed (95.2) and opponents’ FG percentage (42.8%). The pick: On paper this looks like a play on Utah but Dallas has won 10 of the last 13 games with Utah overall, plus the Mavs have been more competitive lately in going 6-4 ATS their last 10. This is a huge number for the Jazz to lay. Take the points and make Dallas an 8* play.
|12-16-16||South Dakota v. Portland -4||Top||82-85||Loss||-110||13 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: The Moda Center, home of the Portland Trail Blazers, plays host to the Dam City Classic on Friday. The 5-3 Portland Pilots welcome the 8-4 South Dakota Coyotes in the first of two games. South Dakota is coming off a 72-56 win over Sacramento State in which they used a 35-4 run to seal the victory. Portland is coming off a win as well, having earned a 90-89 double overtime victory over Texas-Rio-Grande Valley. South Dakota:The Coyotes joined Division-I for the 2008-09 season and they’ve made just one post season appearance and that was the CIT. However, this year’s team is looking a little more legit so far, with wins over the likes of Drake, Bowling Green, Kent State, and Montana (no big names but these are D-I programs. The four losses have come against Houston, Hofstra, Missouri-Kansas City, and Nebraska. The team owns four double digit scorers, forwards Flack (13.9 & 7.7) and Burch-Manning (10.5 & 6.2) plus guards Mooney (13.6) and Dickerson (120.2 & 3.5 APG). Portland: The Pilots have not been as busy as the Coyotes, having played eight games to South Dakota’s 12. Portland is playing some solid ball, jumping out to a 3-0 start. The Pilots jumped out to a 3-0 start before losing to UCLA and Dayton (no shame there). The Pilots’ only other loss this year is to Colorado.. The only other defeat on the year came against Colorado. Portland owns an outstanding guard duo in Wintering (22.2-5.4-6.3) and Johnson (18.5), while the 6-8 Taylor (13.0 & 6.8) is the team's top frontcourt player. Portland is averaging 81.0 PPG. The pick: There can be little doubt that Portland is the better team, led by the backcourt duo of Wintering and Johnson, who averaged 26.7 & 22.7, respectively, during the Wooden Legacy Classic during Thanksgiving weekend. Portland’s level of competition is significantly higher than that of South Dakota St. and all of Portland’s losses have come against teams that they were certainly expected to lose to. Simply put, the Pilots play in the better conference, and are the better team. They are co-hosting this tournament with Oregon State at the Moda Center and this has the makings of an easy win for Portland, which I will make a 10* play at this modest price.
|12-16-16||Drexel v. Rider -3.5||Top||82-90||Win||100||11 h 11 m||Show|
The set-up: The 4-5 Drexel Dragons of the Colonial Athletic association will travel to play the 6-3 Rider Broncs, who represent Metro Atlantic Athletic conference in this non-conference college basketball game on Friday. Drexel: The Dragons’ 29-win season of 2011-12 seems light years away these days, after Drexel went just 6-25 last season, including 3-15 in CAA play. That said, with four wins, the Dragons are almost at last year’s win total. The Dragons were actually a .500 team before losing 72-71 to St Joe’s in their last outing, a game Drexel led by four at the half in. The 6-7 Rodney Williams (16.7 & 6.4) led Drexel with 29 points and 10 rebounds in their loss. He’s joined by a trio of guards averaging in double digits, Lee (16.0-3.3-4.7), Mojica (10.4 & 6.3) and freshman Jonsson (10.2). Rider: The Broncs are also off a poor season (13-20 last year) but I like this team’s starting-five. Taylor (14.6 & 4.4) and Jordan (8.4) are the guards, along with a trio of 6-7 players up front. That group is led by Thomas (13.3 & 10.1) , along with Lundy (12.4 & 3.9) and Carey (10.1 & 7.9). The pick: Rider is the better defensive team, owns rebounding advantage and just better overall balance than Drexel. Being at home doesn’t hurt, either Rider is an 8* play.
|12-15-16||Blazers +1.5 v. Nuggets||Top||120-132||Loss||-108||12 h 15 m||Show|
The set-up: The 13-14 Portland Trail Blazers visit Denver to take on the 9-16 Nuggets, having already beaten them twice this season, 115-113 (OT) in Denver back on Oct. 29 and then 112-105 in Portland on Nov. 13. Portland: The Blazers got a much-needed 114-95 win against Oklahoma City on Tuesday, ending a four-game losing streak. Portland held Thunder superstar Russell Westbrook in check (20 points on 7 of 19 shooting), while shooting 53.8% from the floor as a team, a six players scored in double digits. That’s hardly typical, as all season, Portland’s dynamic backcourt duo of Lillard (27.3-4.7-5.8) and McCollum (22.4) have done the bulk of the scoring. Harkless (12.5-5.3) and Plumlee (10.4-7.2-4.3) are the only other Blazers averaging in double digits on the year. The Blazers (109.8 PPG ranks 6yh) can score on a nightly basis but stopping their opponents has been another story (111.4 PPG allowed ranks 28th of 30 teams). Denver: The Nuggets are back home after a 2-4 road trip in which they lost at 7-17 Brooklyn, 10-14 Washington and 6-19 Dallas. No loss was more disappointing than the 112-92 loss in Dallas to wrap up the six-game road trip, as the sad-sack Mavericks dominated Monday’s game by scoring 65 in the first half against a seemingly non-existent Denver defense. Dallas shot 58.7 percent prompting head coach Mike Malone to say, "Our one-on-one defense is pathetic right now. We don’t take pride in it. We allow guys just to back us down and score way too easy." Denver ranks 26th in points allowed (108.8) and 25th in opponents’ FG percentage (46.4%). The pick: No reason to expect Portland not to win here, just as the Blazers have done in their first two meetings with the Nuggets this season. The Nuggets have lost eight of their last 11 overall, and are just 3-7 SU at Pepsi Center on the season. Portland is a 10* play.
|12-15-16||Murray State v. Ole Miss -9||Top||73-78||Loss||-115||11 h 9 m||Show|
The set-up: 5-5 Murray State visits Oxford Thursday night to take on the 6-3 Ole Miss Rebels. Murray St. had a run of six consecutive 20-win season snapped last year (two times winning 31 games), as they finished 17-14. Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy is in his 11th season with the Rebels and has won 20-plus games in eight of the previous 10, although Ole Miss has made just two trips to the Big Dance in his tenure. Murray State: The Racers lost two starters from last year’s team but they were the team's two leading scorers, forwards Moss (14.2- & 4.1) and Langston (13.5 & 6.1). Junior guard Jonathan Stark is a Tulane transfer and leads the way by averaging 20.6 PPG and 5.5 APG. He’s joined in the backcourt by Jones (13.7 & 4.3) and Croaker (11.0 & 4.9) with the 6-8 Miller (12.1 & 6.6) being the team's best frontcourt player. Murray State is a solid offensive team, averaging 80.9 PPG. Ole Miss: The Rebels are also led by a transfer, guard Deandre Burnett form Miami (Fla.), who averages a team-best 20.0 PPG. Ole Miss owns excellent perimeter depth, as Burnett is joined by Neal (12.9), Davis (12.0 & 4.9) and Brooks (9.7). Up front, the 6-9 Saiz (14.9 & 11.2) will easily be the best big man in the game, as he’s the only SEC player averaging a double-double. Ole Miss has lost three of four since an 3-0 start and this marks the opener of a four-game homestand which will conclude with the team’s SEC opener Dec. 31st against Kentucky. The pick: Ole Miss needs to regain some momentum here prior to its meeting with Kentucky and this Murray State team is not up to the same standard of recent editions. Ole Miss is a 10* play.
|12-14-16||Pistons v. Mavs +5||Top||95-85||Loss||-110||11 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up: The 13-13 Pistons travel to Dallas in search of a win against the Mavericks, who check in with the NBA’s worst record at 6-18. However, the Mavericks are coming off arguably their best performance of the season, after beating Denver 112-92 on Monday in the opener of a quick two-game homestand. Six players scored in double figures, as Dallas scored a season-high in points in regulation and shot a season-high 58.4 percent. The Pistons sure can’t the same, as they suffered a 97-79 home loss to 6-18 Philadelphia on Sunday, as the 76ers opened the game on an 18-4 run and never looked back. The 76ers and Mavs are tied for the worst record in the NBA. Detroit: Stan Van Gundy experimented in the Philadelphia game by starting two PGs, Reggie Jackson (12.2 & 4.0 APG) and Ish Smith (9.9 & 6.1 APG, as starting SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (14.3) sat out with a knee injury. It didn’t work but Van Gundy hopes to try it again in an effort to manufacture more offense.The Pistons do need to improve offensively, as they rank 25th in scoring at 99.1 PPG. However, Detroit has made up for it on the defensive end of the court, ranking 2nd overall in points allows (96.1 per). Dallas: The Mavs have to be happy about the easy win over Denver, as it came with Dirk Nowitzki (12.2 & 6.4), Andrew Bogut (3.8 & 10.4) and J.J. Barea (16.3 & 5.4 APG) all out of the lineup. Wesley Matthews (16.5) scored a team-high 25 points to go along with four rebounds and two steals in 32 minutes. Matthews has posted at least 25 points five times in his last eight games. Rookie forward Dorian Finney-Smith, starting in place of Nowitzki, set or matched season highs in points (13), rebounds (nine), assists (three) and blocks (two) in 32 minutes. Justin Anderson and Seth Curry scored 11 and 10, respectively, off the bench. Harrison Barnes, the team’s leading scorer at 20.5 PPG, scored 18 and Deron Williams (12.3 & ) added 17 points. The pick: The Pistons have won their last two visits to Dallas after losing their previous six. Caldwell-Pope is expected back but I’m not convinced that means much. The Mavericks are showing signs of life after a dreadful 3-15 start, having split six games since. They look for their third victory in their last four games tonight against the Pistons and get it. This home dog is an 8* play.
|12-14-16||UC-Davis +10 v. North Dakota State||Top||70-74||Win||100||10 h 26 m||Show|
The set-up: Fargo, North Dakota will be the site of tonight’s game between UC-Davis and North Dakota State. Both schools got off to quick starts, UC-Davis at 5-2 and North Dakota State at 5-1 but the pair enter tonight’s game with UC-Davis at 5-5 and North Dakota state at 6-4. UC-Davis: The Aggies are coming off a disappointing 11-19 season, which followed a 25-win year in which it won the Big West regular season title at 14-2. UC-Davis opened 5-2 with wins over Santa Clara, Northern Arizona, Holy Names, Sacramento State and Drake but has dropped three straight to Oakland, Idaho and California. The aggies are led by 6-6 forward Moneke (13.7 & 8.5) plus guards Lemar (13.0) and Schneider (10.7). North Dakota State: The Bison’s fast 5-1 start has quickly evaporated with a 1-3 run. The Bison beat NC A&T but have lost to Missouri State, Xavier and North Dakota with a win over North Carolina A&T. A pair of 6-6 players, Miller (11.2 & 4.5) and Werner (10.7 PPG & 6.4) average in double digits but Kabellis (9.5 PPG) and Jacobson (9.4 PPG) aren’t too far behind. The pick: There is not much to choose between these two teams and the points seem awfully high. Make UC-Davis an 8* play.
|12-14-16||St. Joe's v. Princeton -8||Top||76-68||Loss||-115||7 h 15 m||Show|
The set-up: St Joe’s won 28 games last season, including one in the “Big Dance” but checks in prior to its game at Princeton tonight with a 4-4 record. The Tigers were 12-2 in the Ivy League last season (2nd to 13-1 Yale) and won 22 games overall, before losing a first-round NIT game to Va. Tech. Princeton comes into this contest a modest 4-4, as well. St. Joseph’s:The Hawks lost a terrific forward duo from last year, Miles (18.1 & 8.1) and Bembry (17.4 & 7.8) and this year’s best duo is the a pair of 6-0 guards, Newkirk (21.1 & 4.1) and Kimble (14.6 & 4.1). St Joe’s opened 3-0 but lost four in a row before bouncing back with a 72-71 win at Drexel. The Hawks erased a four-point deficit at halftime and dug deep for the win. Junior guard Shavar Newkirk led the way with 27 points for Saint Joseph's on 10-of-16 shooting. Princeton: The Tigers returned all five starters from last season plus the 6-9 Hase was coming back after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. He had been a double digit scorer in the previous two years but he was quickly lost for the season with another injury to his knee. Princeton was off to a 2-4 start but returns home (this will be just Princeton’s second home game this season), after back-to-back victories over Hawaii (75-62 at Pearl Harbor) and 67-64 at Liberty. A trio of SFs in Cook (13.5 & 4.5), Weisz (9.9 & 4.2) and Caruso (9.5 & 4.4) are all seniors. The team’s best backcourt player is sophomore guard Cannady (11.0). The pick: Both of these teams will be better come conference play but the key here is, Princeton has recorded 16 consecutive home victories at Jadwin Gymnasium. Make it 17 wins in a row and make the Tigers a 10* play.
|12-13-16||UC Riverside v. Santa Clara -5||Top||53-77||Win||100||21 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: Cal-Riverside will be playing just its sixth game of the season when it visits the 4-6 Santa Clara Broncos Cal-Riverside: The Highlanders lone win this year came in their only home game so far, against Fresno Pacific (not exactly a marquee win). The team has excellent balance, as six players average between 7.8 and 12.2 PPG. The team's two-best guards are Murray (12.2) and Martin (11.0), while upfront, it’s 6-5 SF Johnson (10.6 & 5.0) and the 6-10 Larson (7.8 & 6.4 Santa Clara: The Broncos started 3-2 but then lost four in a row before ending the losing streak with a 75-50 win over Cal St.-East Bay (again, not exactly a marquee victory). Guard Brownridge (18.7) is easily the best player on the court and 6-6 forward Pugh (11.4 & 5.8) is a solid player. The pick: Cal-Riverside is not expected to contend for the Big West title this season nor will Santa Clara scare any teams in the WCC. However, head coach Herb Sendek has had success at both NC State and Arizona St, and should do well here at Santa Clara. Riverside has yet to win on the road this year and allows 82.0 PPG away from home, which should allow Brownridge and Co. to have the highest scoring game of the season. Santa Clara is an 8* play.
|12-13-16||Monmouth +4 v. Memphis||Top||82-79||Win||100||20 h 50 m||Show|
The set-up: Monmouth (8-2) will visit Memphis on Tuesday to take on the 7-2 Tigers, who are 6-0 at home this season. Monmouth: Four starters return from last year's 28-8 team, which many felt was the NCAA’s biggest snub on Selection Sunday. Reigning Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Year, the 5-7 Justin Robinson (16.2-3.1-5.1) is again leading the way. He has scored in double figures in 62 of his last 69 games. The other three returning starters are also averaging in double digits, 6-10 senior center Brady (11.5 & 6.4) plus guards Seaborn (15.6) and Hornbeak (11.0). Monmouth was selected to finish first in MAAC this season in a poll of the league's coaches but the Hawks have not exactly played the toughest of schedules, losing their only two games against teams from Power Five conferences (MAAC play opens Dec. 31). Memphis: Tubby Smith is now on the coaching sidelines for the Tigers and his success is unquestioned. The Tigers’ most important player is 6-9 sophomore sophomore Dedric Lawson (20.7 & 10.8) but he needs to stay out of foul trouble and on the court. One game after scoring only eight points in a loss vs. Ole Miss because of early foul trouble, Lawson exploded for 24 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocked shots in 40 minutes against UAB to lead the Tigers to their seventh victory.Dedric’s brother, the 6-7 K.J. Lawson (14.2 & 8.4) and guar Markel Crawford (13.3 & 4.8) are two more double digit scorers. The pick: King Rice’s Monmouth team is a veteran group which 13-4 SU on the road last year and it’s been awhile since Memphis was good home favorite. Take eth points and Make Monmouth a 10* play.
|12-12-16||Jacksonville State v. Maryland -13.5||Top||66-92||Win||100||11 h 55 m||Show|
The set-up: Jacksonville state (5-5) visits a 10-1 Maryland team tonight in College Park. The Gamecocks come in on a two-game losing skid, losing a four-point contest to Samford and a five-point overtime contest to Louisiana Monroe in their last two outings. The Terps have lost just once, 73-59 to Pitt in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Jacksonville State: The Gamecocks have a trio of senior guards in Dunbar (12.4 & 4.3), Drumwright (11.3 & 4.2) and Tucker (9.9) plus a 6-10 JUCO player in Giga, who averages 12.2 & 9.0. The big Lithuanian has 21 rebounds in the last two games and has matched a season high with 18 points in two of the last three contests. Maryland: The Terrapins lost four starters from last year’s team, with only PG Melo Trimble returning. He’s coming off a season-low five-point effort in Saturday's win against Saint Peter's but leads the team in scoring at 17.2 PPG. Three freshman have made significant impacts so far, guard Cowan (10.0-4.7-3.5) and a pair of 6-7 swingman, Jackson (11.2 & 6.1) and Huerter (7.6 & 5.3). The pick: Big Ten play opens Dec. 27 and this marks Maryland’s second-to-last game before that. The Terps won’t play again until Dec 20, so expect a good effort here. Maryland may be 7-1 SU at home so far but the Terps are 0-5-1 ATS. That changes here, Make Maryland a 10* play.
|12-11-16||Warriors -9 v. Wolves||Top||116-108||Loss||-110||19 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: It’s been a rough start to the current season for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who have opened 6-17. Playing the Warriors is never good news and to make matters worse, Minnesota will host Golden State tonight, with the Warriors coming off just their fourth los of the season, having lost 110-89 last night in Memphis. Golden State: The Warriors are 20-4 but three of the team's four losses have come in blowouts. Golden St. opened the season losing by 29 points at home to the Spurs, lost at the Lakers by 20 back on Nov. 4 and then last night, lost by 21 in Memphis. Both Curry and Thompson shot 4 of 14 from the floor, while all five Memphis starters scored in double digits. Curry and Draymond Green had four turnovers apiece and combined for just four assists as Golden State finished with 15 in that category, far and away a season low for a team which entered averaging 32 APG. Golden State scored fewer than 90 points for the first time since March 19 of last year, at San Antonio Minnesota: Tom Thibodeau's team has talent but is very young and inexperienced. Things seemingly hit a low point in Minneapolis following Friday's 27-point blowout home loss to the Pistons. Players had some pretty strong words about their latest performance. "We didn't play with heart," point guard Ricky Rubio told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "It was a two-point game and suddenly it was a 25-point game. And it seems like we didn't care." Guard Zach LaVine echoed Rubio's sentiment. "We got blown out at home, and it's unacceptable," LaVine told the Star Tribune. "We've got to play as a team. We have to come out and give it all we've got. Because we have to get out of this hole. This is our job. Our passion. It's about us." Rubio averages 6.6 & 6.4 APG and LaVine (20.2), which gives Minnesota three, 20-point scorers, joining Wiggins (22.1) and Towns (21.4 & 10.4). The pick: Minnesota has too much talent to be 6-17 but while Thibodeau's strength has always been defense, this team allows 106.9 PPG (23) on 47.4% shooting (29th). That hardly spells good news when facing the leagues' highest-scoring (118.1 PPG) and best-shooting (49.9%) team, coming off an embarrassing loss. Golden State has won 15 of the last 17 meetings and makes it 16 of 18 here with plenty of room to spare. Golden St. is 10* play.
|12-11-16||Western Kentucky +8 v. Indiana State||Top||77-59||Win||100||17 h 43 m||Show|
The set-up: Western Kentucky visits Indiana State looking to break a four-game losing streak. The Hilltoppers are 3-5 overall and will take on a Sycamores team that is 5-4 overall but 3-0 at home, including an upset over No. 15 Butler, 72-71 on Wednesday. Western Kentucky: Rick Stansbury retired back in 2012 (Miss. St) but came back to work as an assistant at Texas A&M in 2014. He took the head coaching job here at Western Ky to open this year and added graduate transfers like Que Johnson (14.4 & 5.6) from Wash. St. and Pancake Thomas (11.1) from Hartford to join the team's top returning player, the 6-6 Justin Johnson (12.8 & 8.8). After a 3-1 start, four straight losses have ensued and the Hilltoppers are looking to get back on track here. Indiana State: Winning at the Hulman Center is no given, as Butler found out last Wednesday. Indiana State struggled in the Advocare Invitational in Florida, losing all three games, but since then, have come back with three straight wins, including beating Northern Illinois (63-52) and Utah State (62-61) on the road, before upsetting Butler at home. The Sycamores are a guard-oriented team, led by the 6-1 Scott, who leads in both scoring (19.8) and rebounding (5.8). The team's only other double digit scorer is t 6-6 forward Van Soyc (10.8) but he only averages 2.7 RPG. The pick: I’m not sure how Butler lost to this team but coming off that victory, I expect Indiana State to be flatter than a pancake in this one. Western Ky is a 10* play.
|12-10-16||Bucks v. Wizards -4.5||Top||105-110||Win||100||11 h 43 m||Show|
The set-up: The 11-10 Milwaukee Bucks head to Washington to take on the 8-13 Wizards, off a game Milwaukee center Greg Monroe called, "Just a total letdown, both ends. I can't even point to one thing!” The Bucks took a 20-point halftime lead Friday night at home against the Hawks but lost 114-110, as Atlanta scored 70 second-half points. The Wizards last played on Thursday and are coming off a 92-85 win over Denver that stands as their best performance on the defensive end this season, as they forced 29 turnovers and held the Nuggets to 33 points after halftime. Milwaukee: In Antetokounmpo (21.6-8.8-5.9) and Parker (19.6 & 5.8) the Bucks own a terrific young duo but the team does not have another double digit scorer. Monroe, a FA signing a couple of years ago, is becoming more and more of a disappointment, as this year his numbers are down to 9.4 & 6.8. The Bucks do defend the perimeter as well as any team, allowing 43.0% shooting overall , which includes 32..0% on threes (both figures are a league-best!). However, the team allows 102.4 PPG, which is fairly mediocre (12th). Washington: The Wizards own one of the NBA’s best backcourts in Wall (23.6-4.3-9.5) and Beal (21.6) but unlike Milwaukee, the team's three other starters all average in double digits, as well. The trio consists of forwards Porter (14.1 & 7.7) and Morris (13.0 & 5.6) plus center Gortat (11.1 & 11.8). Also unlike Milwaukee, Washington’s defense is not doing a good job, as opponents are shooting 46.4% from the floor (26th), including 37.4% (28th) on threes. The pick: The teams play a total of four times in just 30 days (including a home-and-home set Dec. 23 and Dec. 26), so they will be familiar foes this next month. Game 1 goes to Washington, as Milwaukee may just recover from last night’s blown loss quickly enough to handle Wall (had 52 points on Tuesday!) and Beal. Washington is a 10* play.
|12-10-16||Long Beach State v. Texas -10.5||Top||65-71||Loss||-110||10 h 42 m||Show|
The set-up: Long Beach State is just 2-9 to open the 2016-17 season and has yet to win away from home, going 0-8 SU in true road games and 0-1 in a single neutral-site contest. Texas opened a heady No.21 in the AP’s preseason poll but after a 3-0 start, lost three in a row and four of its last five, so comes in just 4-4. Long Beach State: The 49ers won 20 games last season but gone are the team's best player, Faust (17.4 & 6.1) plus forward Hammonds (10.1 & 4.9). The 6-7 Levin (12.5 & 6.6) is the team's top frontcourt performer this year plus Payne (12.1) and PG Bibbins (9.5-3.8 APG) are the team's best backcourt players. The 49ers returned home Wednesday following a winless nine-game road trip and notched a much-needed 75-66 victory over Pepperdine behind guard Evan Payne’s game-high 17 points. “Obviously that was a big win for us,” head coach Dan Monson told reporters. “We know that the team is a little fragile confidence-wise because of the schedule, and I was pleased with the way that they came out.” Texas: Many may feel that Shaka Smart’s Texas team was overrated early on but the very young Longhorns’ early-season struggles aren’t totally unexpected. After all, the Longhorns are rebuilding after losing all five starters from last season’s squad.6-7 sophomore Tevin Mack (14.6 & 4.3) has stepped up as a consistent scorer in his second season but the Longhorns need more production from sophomore Kerwin Roach Jr. (11.6 & 4.1) and freshman guard Andrew Jones (9.1 & 4.1). The two were held to a combined 11 points in Tuesday’s 53-50 loss at Michigan. Texas missed 10 of its last 12 shots in the final nine minutes! Smart is hoping that 6-11 Jarrett Allen (10.0 & 6.4) will continue to develop. The pick: Long Beach allows 84.5 PPG (338th) on 48.2% shooting (324) and is now back out on the road where the team is winless, while allowing a whopping 91.6 PPG. Texas is not a high scoring team but the much smaller 49ers offer little resistance. Texas is 209-29 at the Erwin Center since the start of the 2002-03 season and while there is an ‘number to cover,’ lay it and make Texas an 8* play.
|12-10-16||Connecticut v. Ohio State -8.5||Top||60-64||Loss||-105||10 h 36 m||Show|
The set-up: UConn was ranked 18th in the AP’s preseason poll but the team's 52-50 Monday upset of Syracuse in Madison Square Garden, only evened the team's record at 4-4. Thad Matta’s Ohio State team ran off six straight wins to open the season but the Buckeyes have lost two of their past three games, including a 79-77 shocker in OT shocker at home to Florida Atlantic last time out. UConn: The Huskies have been ravaged by injuries and were off to their worst start in decade but, got 21 points from Rodney Purvis to rally from a 14-point deficit and stun the Orange at Madison Square Garden on Monday. The Huskies are down to eight scholarship players because of season-ending injuries to freshman PG Alterique Gilbert (shoulder), freshman forward Mamadou Diarra (knee) and sophomore swingman Terry Larrier (knee). Larrier was averaging 13.5 PPG and Gilbert 10.3 PPG. Sophomore guard Adams (17.8-5.2-5.6) has made big strides from last year (7.3 PPG) and Rodney Purvis (12.5 & 4.5) has proven to be a reliable double digit scorer, now in his third season after transferring from NC State. UConn keeps hoping 7-0 center Amida Brimah will have a breakout season but it’s his senior year and his current 6.4 & 5.5 numbers say, it’s just more of the same. Ohio State: Not quite sure just what to make of Ohio State just yet but six players average double figures for the Buckeyes. SF Jae’Sean Tate is the team’s leading scorer with 14.0 points per game and also its best rebounder (7.8 RPG). The 6-8 Loving (11.8 & 5.3) plus the 6-10 Thompson (10.2 & 5.8) also have played well enough up front. The guard duties are held down by Williams (11.7) and Lyle (10.8 & 5.8 APG), who handles the point. 6-7 junior F Keita Bates-Diop (10.2 & 5.8 in four games)returned from an ankle injury to score 10 points in 20 minutes against Florida Atlantic. Ohio State is shooting 49.6 percent from the floor, while holding opponents to a mere 37.3 percent but the Buckeyes have not taken care of the ball this season averaging 14.1 turnovers. The pick: This is a tough scheduling spot for UConn (off the Syracuse win) plus Ohio State will be primed to get back on its homecourt after losing to FAU. After all, Ohio State is 122-8 at home in non-conference games under coach Thad Matta. Make Ohio State a 10* play.
|12-09-16||Georgia Southern +13.5 v. Minnesota||Top||49-86||Loss||-110||12 h 53 m||Show|
The set-up: 4-4 Georgia Southern travels to Minnesota to take on the 8-1 Golden Gophers. The Eagles have wins in three of their last five games, which coincides with junior guard Mike Hughes returning from a three-game suspension for violating team rules to start the season. As for Minnesota, coming off an 8-23 ‘disaster’ last year, the Gophers have already matched last year’s win total, losing only 75-67 at Florida State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Georgia Southern: All five starters are now back for the Eagles, although last year’s team was just 14-17. Getting Hughes back is a big deal, as he not only has averaged 11.2 PPG but he’s the reigning Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year. Hughes joins Smith (21.4), Brown (14.9-4.0-4.0) and Allsmiller (8.4) to give Ga. Southern a quality group of player on the perimeter. The 6-8 O’Connell (6.2 & 4.5) and the 6-8 Glenn (5.5 & 4.9) start up front, although the 6-6 Gladden (7.8 & 4.1) is the team’s highest scoring frontcourt player, coming off the bench. Minnesota: Richard Pitino’s team suffered through a brutal season last year but this year’s squad has been on a roll, as he’s integrating newcomers like freshman guard and leading scorer Amir Coffey (13.8 PPG) plus Illinois St. transfer, 6-10 center Reggie Lynch (8.2 & 6.6 plus 3.8 blocks) with the core of last year's squad. Key returnees are guards Mason (12.8) and McBayer (10.7) plus forwards Murphy (9.9 & 7.7) and Curry (6.9 & 6.7). The pick: Defense has been a key for Minnesota so far, holding opponents to just 35.8% shooting (7th-best) but now that “all hands are on deck” for Georgia Southern, expect the eagles to ‘hand around’ against a Minnesota team which is just 3-3 ATS at home. Georgia Southern is an 8* play.
|12-09-16||Magic +6.5 v. Hornets||Top||88-109||Loss||-108||10 h 3 m||Show|
The set-up: The 10-13 Orlando Magic are in Charlotte tonight to take on the 13-9 Hornets. The Magic are looking to bounce back from an ugly 1117-87 home loss to the Celtics on Wednesday, which occurred in the team's first game back after a five-game road trip which had seen them end that trip with three straight wins, including a 95-83 victory at the San Antonio Spurs. The Hornets opened 6-1 but then dropped six of eight, before righting the ship with five wins in their last seven. Orlando: Orlando went 4-1 on a five-game road trip that included a win at San Antonio but shot 37 percent from the field in a 117-87 home loss to the Boston Celtics on Wednesday. "We just didn’t play the right way and we didn’t play our game, plus our defense was terrible," Magic center Bismack Biyombo (5.5 & 8.3)told reporters. "We can sit here and talk about this and that, but we didn’t play the way that we’ve been playing. We started holding onto the ball longer. I don’t think 'selfish' would be the right way to put it, but we didn’t trust the next guy. If you play like that, you are going to lose." Fournier (16.7) and PG Payton (10.7 & 5.3 APG) are a nice backcourt duo plus Ibaka (14.3 & 6.7) and Vucevic (12.4 & 11.3) form a nice one-two inside punch. However, Vucevic is questionable with an eye injury. He’s an important cog, recording a double-double in 10 of the last 12 games, while presenting a strong inside presence for a team which ranks 5th in point allowed (98.8 PPG). Charlotte: Charlotte forward Marvin Williams (10.0 & 6.0) sat out six games with a knee injury but returned on Wednesday and made his presence felt on the defensive end while adding 12 points and five rebounds in 26 minutes. “It felt good. I got a lot of energy," Williams told reporters. "I felt like I haven’t played in a long time, but once I got back out there, I feel like I had a pretty good rhythm, my conditioning felt fine, so I’m happy with the win." Walker (23.6-4.0-5.0) is having an excellent season and Batunm (13.5-7.;7-5.5) is proving to be one of the league’s most versatile players. Kaminsky (10.9 & 4.7) and Zeller (10.5 & 5.8) split time at center and if Williams can stay healthy, he and Kidd-Gilchrist (9.5-7.1), one of the league's best defenders, give Charlotte quality depth up front. The pick: This is not the best scheduling spot for Orlando, going back on the road after just one home following a five-game road trip but after a 6-1 start (5-2 ATS), the Hornets are only 6-8-1 ATS their last 15 games. Take the points and make the Magic a 10* play.
|12-08-16||Warriors -7 v. Jazz||Top||106-99||Push||0||12 h 41 m||Show|
The set-up: The 19-3 Golden State Warriors have won 15 of their last 16 games after wiping the Staple Center floor in a 115-98 win last night over the Clippers, in what was supposed to be a showdown between two championship-caliber teams. The Warriors are averaging a whopping 130.5 PPG in December, as they visit Salt Lake City tonight to take on the 14-9 Utah Jazz. This will be a game between the NBA’s highest scoring team (Golden State averages 120.0 PPG) and its stingiest team, Utah allows 95.5 PPG. Golden State: The Warriors made short work of the Clippers and the team's “Big 3” has been virtually unstoppable the last four games. Thompson is averaging 31.3 points on 48.9 percent shooting, Curry is scoring 22.8 points per game on 47.6 percent shooting and dishing out 6.0 assists plus Durant is chipping in 23.8 points on 47.0 percent shooting and collecting 8.3 rebounds. Durant (26.5-8.4-4.8) and Curry (25.9-4.0-6.0) are the league’s highest scoring duo, Thompson (22.6) is well, Thompson (he gives the Warriors the league’s highest scoring trio, as well), plus which NBA team wouldn’t drool over the possibility of adding Draymond Green (10.7-8.4-7.3) to its roster? Golden State leads the NBA in FG percentage (50.2) and is the only team in the league shooting above 50 percent. The Warriors are also leading the NBA in assists (32.0 per game), proving superstars can play together. Utah: The vastly improved Utah Jazz are seeking a signature victory but will be missing their starting backcourt on Thursday. Point guard George Hill (20.0 & 4.2 APG) will sit out for the fourth straight game (toe) and SG Rodney Hood (15.7) will be sidelined with a hamstring injury. PF Derrick Favors (knee contusion) and SG Alec Burks (ankle rehabilitation) will also not play against the Warriors. However, Utah has won three straight and seven of its last eight. SF Gordon Hayward (23.1-6.4-3.9) is carrying the squad and his 28-point effort against Phoenix represented his ninth straight 20-point outing. Center Rudy Gobert (11.3 & 11.3) scored a career-best 22 points against the Suns for his third 20-point outing of the campaign and the big man has been in double digits on the boards in eight consecutive games. The pick: Staying with the Warriors is difficult enough, even when healthy. It’s hard to see how, even at home, the Jazz can trade scores with Golden State or be able to slow this team down. Golden State is 10-1 on the road with seven straight victories plus has dominated the series with Utah in recent seasons. The Warriors enter this game having win five straight and 11 of the last 12 against the Jazz. What’s even more scary is, this is the best Golden State team the Jazz will have faced. The Warriors are an 8* play.
|12-08-16||Vanderbilt +2.5 v. Middle Tennessee||Top||48-71||Loss||-107||10 h 9 m||Show|
The set-up: Vanderbilt is 5-4 and the Commodores will have their work cut out for them when they visit Murfreesboro, Tn. to take on the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders. MTSU is off a 25-10 season in which it upset Michigan State (a No. 2 seed) in last year’s Big Dance. At 8-1 to open the current season, the Blue Raiders look continue their best start in five years when they host Vanderbilt for an intrastate clash on Thursday. Vanderbilt: Bryce Drew led Vandy to an NCAA berth in his first season at Nashville, although the ‘Dore lost in a First Four game. Gone from that team are two first-round NBA picks, guard Baldwin (14.1-4.0-5.2) and the 7-0 Jones (13.9 & 6.9). However, the team's next four most important players have returned, giving Vandy a nice balance of guard and frontcourt play. Fisher-Davis (14.9) is this year’s leading scorer, paired in the backcourt with PG La Chance (10.6-3.2-4.7). Up front is the 7-1 Kornet (13.1 & 5.4) and 6-6 forward Roberson (11.1 & 7.4). The Commodores rank 10th nationally from three-point range (42.7 percent) and 22nd from the foul line (77.2 percent). MTSU: Middle Tennessee is no stranger to taking on – and beating – SEC opponents, but welcoming one to Murphy Center is a bit more rare. Ole Miss was the most recent team from the league to visit Murphy Center – and lose 65-62 – four years ago. Head coach Kermit Davis returned two key members of last year;’s team, PG Potts (14.2-5.4-3.3) and the 6-8 Upshaw (14.0 & 6.9). Joining the mix this year is 6-8 Arkansas transfer Williams, who after sitting out last year, is making up for lost time by leading the eatm in scoring at 19.7 PPG, while adding 5.8 PPG. The pick: MTSU seems better suited in situations like this as a the underdog but here, the Blur=e raiders are favored Watch out. Make Vandy a 10* play.
|12-07-16||Creighton -4.5 v. Nebraska||Top||77-62||Win||100||20 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: Creighton is off to a perfect 8-0 start this season and checks in at No. 10 in the latest AP poll. The Bluejays (8-0) remained No. 10 in the Associated Press poll while moving from No. 12 to No. 10 in the USA Today coaches poll Monday. That’s no small feat, as it is the first time in program history that Creighton is a top-10 team in either poll in consecutive weeks. The 5-3 Nebraska Cornhuskers get set to host their in-state rivals tonight at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln. It may be called a rivalry game but it’s been pretty one-sided lately, as in the last 17 regular season meetings, Creighton has won 14. Creighton: This marks Creighton’s first true road game of the 2016-17 season. The Bluejays have played three games away from CenturyLink Center so far but all of those were at a neutral site in the Virgin Islands. Creighton will not have to travel far for this one, as Lincoln is just under 60 miles west on Interstate 80. Greg McDermott has averaged 23.5 wins per season in his six prior years at Creighton and this year’s team looks like it’s back to NCAA tourney status, after a two-year drought. The Bluejays average 90.8 PPG (6th) on 54.1 percent shooting (2nd), which includes 44.8% on threes (also ranks 2nd). Creighton has a 7-0 redshirt freshman center in Justin Patton (12.8 & 6.5) but its strength resides on the perimeter, where it owns excellent depth. Foster (19.4), Thomas (13.8 & 4.9) and PG Watson (12.0 & 9.0 APG) are a dynamic trio. Foster has been a big plus for the Bluejays offense, after sitting out last season as a transfer from Kansas State. Nebraska: The Cornhuskers knew they would lose swingman and leading scorer Shields (16.8) this year but when Andrew White (16.6) decide to play his final season at Syracuse, as a graduate transfer, Tim Miles’ team took a big hit. Miles got Nebraska to the NCAA tourney in his second season at the school but these last two years, Nebraska has won just 13 and 16 games. Four-year starter. 6-4 combo guard Tai Webster (16.9-5.4-3.8) is the team's best player. Glynn Watson Jr. ranks second on the team in scoring (13.8) and assists (3.1), plus the sophomore guard leads the conference in steals (2.4). Sophomore forwards Michael Jacobson (6.1 & 6.0) and Jack McVeigh (8.9 & 4.4) need to show more in support of the 6-7 Morrow (11.1 & 7.5). The pick: Nebraska has been a “tough out” at home over the years and the team’s defense (62.5 PPG to rank 36th) is the reason for that. However, Nebraska averages just 69.1 PPG and will not be able to keep up with the high-scoring Bluejays (remember, they average 90.8 PPG) to cover this number. Creighton is a 10* play.
|12-07-16||Blazers +2 v. Bucks||Top||107-115||Loss||-110||19 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: The 12-10 Portland Trail Blazers will be in Milwaukee Wednesday night to take on the 10-9 Bucks. This marks the second of a five-game road trip for Portland, which will go for its fourth straight win. The Bucks saw their season-high four-game winning streak end on Monday when they blew a 13-point halftime lead Monday against San Antonio, falling 97-96. Portland: The Blazers lean heavily on the scoring prowess of PG Damian Lillard (27.9-4.9-5.6) and backcourt partner C. J. McCollum (22.0-3.8-3.7), the league’s second-highest scoring tandem behind a couple of unknowns named Durant and Curry. Portland’s 112-110 victory Monday at Chicago extended its winning streak to three games and was the team's fourth win in five games. "I thought this was a good way to start a trip," said Portland coach Terry Stotts. “Even though we gave up 110 points, I thought we were locked in for most of the game. We did a lot of good things defensively." Monday marked the return of Al-Farouq Aminu to the Blazers' lineup after he had missed 13 games with a calf injury. He scored three points on 1-for-3 shooting, with a block and a steal, in 17 minutes. Aminu averaged 10.2 & 6.1 last year and his return to health is important for a team in search of more scoring outside of Lillard and McCollum. SF Harkless (13.0 & 5.5) and Plumlee (10.1 & 7.) are the only others in double figures, although Crabbe (9.5) and Turner (9.1) are closing in on that mark. Milwaukee: The Bucks are also a team looking to find its identity behind young stars Giannis Antetokounmpo (22.4-8.7-5.4) and Jabari Parker (18.8 & 6.0). Milwaukee was seemingly in control against the Spurs but started to fall apart late in the second half and, despite a late surge, couldn't overcome San Antonio in the final moments. Coach Jason Kidd said the loss will help Milwaukee in the long run "You can also grow from losing," Kidd said. "Going through the experience of a close game, you can learn from your mistakes. We can learn a lot from our mistakes. Going down the stretch, (we need) to move the ball and make plays for one another to where someone gets a wide-open shot." The pick: I’m not buying Kidd’s assessment that the loss Monday to San Antonio was a “plus.” In fact, I look for a carry over of that disappointment tonight, as the high-scoring Trail Blazers (110.3 PPG ranks 5th in the league) outscore the Bucks, who have few if any options outside of Antetokounmpo and Parker. Portland is a 10* play.
|12-07-16||TCU +4 v. SMU||Top||59-74||Loss||-110||18 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: TCU is 8-0 for just the third time in program history and like 8-0 USC, may be playing with a chip on its shoulder, as neither of these unbeatens are currently ranked in the AP’s latest top-25 poll. TCU aims to remain undefeated Wednesday when it visits 6-3 SMU in non-league action. SMU leads the all-time series 105-85 and the 190 meetings are the most for any opponent in TCU history. TCU: The Horned Frogs had nowhere to go but up after a 12-21 season last year, including losing all nine road games against Big 12 opponents. However, the good news entering this season was that Jamie Dixon was returning to his alma mater to take over the coaching reigns. Dixon led the Panthers to a 328-123 (.727) record in 13 seasons which included 11 NCAA bids, a CBI championship in 2012 and two, 31-win seasons. Dixon owned a remarkable record in November games and TCU won all of its games last month (Dixon is now 77-6 all-time in November!) plus a 77-54 home in over Arkansas St on Dec. 3 has the team at 8-0. The Horned Frogs' scoring attack which averages 82.2 PPG is both balanced and deep. A&M transfer Robinson (11.9 & 5.3 APG) leads the way, along with freshman guard Fisher (10.4 & 4.5 APG). Right there with them are 6-7 swingman Williams (10.5 & 10.0) plus the 6-11 Brodziansky (11.4 & 4.9). Defensively, Dixon’s team allows a modest 65.1 PPG). SMU: The Mustangs are coming off seasons of 27, 27 and 25 wins, led by the controversial Larry Brown. He’s stepped aside now and it’s Tim Jankovich’s team. It’s led by junior redshirt forward Ojeleye (17.0 & 7.6) and returning forward Ben Moore (11.9 & 8.0). Sunday's win over Delaware State saw that duo combined for 31 points and 17 rebounds, while reserve forward Harry Froling chipped in 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting. However, starting guards Sterling Brown (10.8), Shake Milton (11.1) and Jarrey Foster (8.2) went a collective 5-of-23 from the floor. The pick: TCU is playing beautifully and adds another “W” (and cover) to a resume which includes a road win against UNLV and back-to-back victories over Washington. The Horned Frogs will be ranked soon. Make them an 8* play here.
|12-06-16||La Salle v. Villanova -16.5||Top||79-89||Loss||-110||8 h 49 m||Show|
The set-up: Villanova took over the No. 1 spot in the AP poll last season (February) and held it for a total of three weeks. The 29-5 Wildcats were ranked 6th heading into the NCAA Tournament but six outstanding efforts later, had won the school’s second national championship. The defending national champions opened this season No. 4 in the AP poll but yesterday, found themselves as the top team in the country, once again. Villanova improved to 8-0 with a resounding 88-57 victory over Saint Joseph's on Saturday and coupled with UCLA upsetting then-No. 1 Kentucky that same day, moved from No. 2 to No. 1 this week. They will continue their quest toward a Big 5 title with a matchup against city rival La Salle (4-2) on Tuesday night at the Palestra. La Salle: You may remember that John Giannini’s team made a Sweet 16 run back in 2013, finishing 24-10. However, the following two seasons saw La Salle win just 15 and 17 games, then last season, the Explorers went only 9-22. The team started slowly this season but takes a three-game winning streak into this contest, having scored at least 83 points in each of those contests (averaging 87.0 PPG). Its most recent performance was an 83-73 victory over Bucknell on Saturday as Syracuse transfer B.J. Johnson (18.7 & 5.7) scored 22 points and Jordan Price (18.5) scored 20 points. Both are guards and the starting lineup consists oof four guards and 6-10 center Washington (8.0 & 3.2). Villanova: Senior Josh Hart was a First-Team Preseason All-American and added to his National Player of the Year candidate resume with a triple-double against St Joe’s, the first for the program since Harold Pressley accomplished the feat in January 1986 at Providence. Hart had 16 points, 11 rebounds and a career-best 10 assists, giving him 19 assists in the past two games. The 6-6 Hart (17.1-6.55-3.9) is joined in the starting lineup by the 6-7 Jenkins (14.5 & 4.5), PG Brunson (11.6 & 3.5 APG), the 6-7 Bridges (10.5 & 5.2) and the 6-9 Reynolds (6.5 & 6.5). Guard DiVincenzo (8.5) and the 6-7 Paschall (8.0 & 3.5) are the first two off the bench. Jay Wright has a versatile and athletic team which has all the makings for a second straight Final Four group. The pick: The Big 5 is a group of Philadelphia schools which play a round-robin every season. Villanova has already topped Penn by 25 and St, Joe’s by 31, extending its Big 5 winning streak to a record 16 straight wins. La Salle last defeated Villanova on Nov. 25, 2012, a 77-74 decision. The Explorers are 0-4 against Villanova at the Palestra since 1999 and don’t look for a close game here, either. La Salle can score (83.8 PPG) but up against Villanova's defense (60.5 PPG to rank 22nd), points will not come so easily. On the defensive end of the court, La Salle has allowed 79.0 PPG on 48.3% shooting, which ranks 320th among Division I schools. That hardly bodes well against Villanova’s ‘sharpshooters,’ who are making 49.9% as a team (22nd). Villanova is an 8* play.
|12-06-16||Northeastern v. Harvard -5||Top||80-86||Win||100||8 h 48 m||Show|
The set-up: Northeastern opened the season 4-2 but head into this game at Harvard 4-4, having lost each of its last two contests, falling at Cornell and Stony Brook. The Huskies are in the midst of a four-game road swing and will wrap at Vermont on Saturday. The Crimson are just 2-4 to open a season in which it had hoped to return to the top of the Ivy League standings. Harvard won five straight Ivy titles (four straight NCAA appearances) before last year’s team went just 14-16, including 4th in the Ivy League at 6-8. Harvard will be playing in consecutive games for the first time this year, as after it hosts Northeastern, it will head to Boston College for a game Wednesday night. Northeastern: Bill Coen is in his 11th year at Northeastern, having had three 20-win teams in that at stretch, including a 23-12 season back in 2015, when the Huskies gave No. 3 seed Notre Dame all it wanted in a 69-65 first-round NCAA loss to the Fighting Irish. Northeastern finished 18-15 last season and reached the CAA Tournament semifinals for the fourth-straight season under Coen, who is now in his 11th season at the helm of Northeastern in 2016-17, totaling a 167-164 overall record. This year’s team is led by seniors T.J. Williams and the 6-8 Alex Murphy. Williams is averaging 22.8-3.6-6.6 and Murphy 14.1 & 5.9. Harvard: Head coach Tommy Amaker is in his 10th season with Harvard and after six straight 20-plus win seasons and four straight NCAA appearances, Harvard was just 14-16 last year, including 4th in the Ivy League at 6-8. He has a roster that includes seven freshmen and six sophomores this season but one of those newcomers, freshman guard Aiken leads the team in scoring at 12.4 PPG. 6-7 freshman forward Seth Towns is second in scoring at 11.5 PPG (adds 4.3 RPG) plus fellow freshman Henry Welsh (at 6-10), is averaging a team-best 5.7 RPG (adds 5.8 PPG). The top-two returning players are senior guard Chambers (8.4 & 6.6 APG) and sophomore guard Johnson (9.5). The pick: Harvard may be just 2-4 so far but Amaker is just one win from tying Frank Sullivan as the all-time winningest head coach at Harvard. Amaker has directed the Crimson to a period of unprecedented prosperity in the form of four NCAA tournament appearances (2012-15), five Ivy League championships (2011-15) and six 20-win seasons (2010-15). Under Amaker, Harvard has posted a 155-63 (.711) overall record since the start of the 2009-10 season, ranking as the 19th-highest win percentage in the country over the last six-plus seasons (as of games played Dec. 3). Harvard has also posted an 82-14 (.854) record at Lavietes Pavilion since the start of the 2009-10 season, representing the 18th highest home-court win percentage in the country over the last six-plus seasons (again, as of games played Dec. 3). Good enough for me to make Harvard a 10* play against this so-so Northeastern squad.
|12-05-16||Celtics v. Rockets -4.5||Top||106-107||Loss||-110||13 h 30 m||Show|
The set-up: The 12-8 Boston Celtics are in Houston tonight up against the 13-7 Rockets. Both teams come in playing well, as Boston has won six of eight and are two games into a stretch of eight of 10 on the road. Speaking of the road, Houston has played a league-high 14 road games thus far, after completing its second five-game road trip of the season with a sparkling 4-1 record. Boston: The Celtics barely squeaked past the Philadelphia 76ers 107-106 to begin their road trip Saturday night behind another stellar performance from PG Isaiah Thomas, whose 37-point effort marked his fifth 30-point game this season. Thomas is averaging 26.3 PPG and 6.3 APG. Avery Bradley (17.7) supported Thomas' effort with 20 points of his own and he hauled in nine rebounds for the second straight game to bump his season average to 7.9, five more than his career mark. Free-agent center Al Horford (14.9-6.5-4.6) is back on the court and has now played in 10 games (Celtics are 7-3). He has averaged 16.7 points in seven wins and 10.7 in three losses. Houston: The Rockets capped their five-game road trip with an impressive 132-127 (2-OT) win at Golden St. on Thursday, followed by a 128-110 win at Denver the very next night. Seven players scored in double figures and Houston was 17-of-37 from three-point range at Denver, hitting their league-leading average in long-range attempts and bumping their percentage to 37.8, good for fifth in the NBA through Saturday. Houston ranks second with 114.4 PPG on 46.6% shooting (3rd). Harden (28.3-7.6-11.8) leads the way but four others are contributing between 12.1 and 16.4 PPG. Also, the return of Patrick Beverley (7.0-4.4-3.9), the team's best defensive player on the perimeter, has been huge. Houston is 7-2 in the games he’s started. The pick: The Celtics have beaten Western Conference foes the likes of the Mavs (4-15) and T-wolves (6-14) but are 0-5 SU & ATS against the other five Western Conference opponents they’ve faced. Boston is stepping way up in class here and Houston is a 10* play.
|12-05-16||Connecticut +9 v. Syracuse||Top||52-50||Win||100||11 h 24 m||Show|
The set-up: UConn is off to a disappointing 3-4 start, considering the Huskies were ranked 18th in the AP’s preseason poll. Syracuse was ranked 19th in the preseason and currently sits 22nd at 5-2 but that will change before tip-off with a new poll being released Monday afternoon. The Orange fell way short in Madison mid-week against the Badgers, as Wisconsin won 77-60. As members of the Big East Conference, the Syracuse Orange and Connecticut Huskies played some of the most memorable games in college basketball history at Madison Square Garden. However, as they return to the Garden tonight, the two schools will be more concerned with finding their respective identities. UConn: The Huskies are down to eight scholarship players because of season-ending injuries to freshman PG Alterique Gilbert (shoulder), freshman forward Mamadou Diarra (knee) and sophomore swingman Terry Larrier (knee). Larrier was averaging 13.5 PPG and Gilbert 10.3 PPG. Sophomore guard Adams (18.0-5.0-5.4) has made big strides from last year (7.3 PPG) and Rodney Short (11.3 & 4.1) has proven to be a reliable double digit score, now in his third season after transferring from NC State. UConn keeps hoping 7-0 center Amida Brimah will have a breakout season but it’s his senior year and his current 7.0 & 5.1 numbers say, it’s just more of the same. Syracuse: The Orange led by as many as 24 in the second half against North Florida before the Ospreys got within five in an eventual 77-71 decision. Fifth-year transfer Andrew White III scored a season-high 26 points to raise his average to a team-best 17.0 PPG. However, that win did little to erase the bad taste left in Syracuse’s mouth by its 77-60 loss at Madison. Wisconsin broke open a close game at the half to by outscoring Syracuse 34-21 after intermission. White shot just 5 of 15 and Syracuse really doesn’t have another “go-to” scorer, as only the 6-9 Lydon (10.3 & 7.1) joins him in double digits. The pick: The Orange and Huskies produced some Madison Square Garden classics such as Syracuse's 127-117 victory in six overtimes in 2009 or UConn's 76-71 overtime win in 2010 when Kemba Walker had 33 points and 12 rebounds. That was then and this is now but it's still Connecticut-Syracuse at the Garden! Taking the points is the bet. Make UConn an 8* play.
|12-04-16||Magic +7 v. Pistons||Top||98-92||Win||100||16 h 47 m||Show|
The set up: Both teams are off wins here as the Pistons beat the Hawks 121-85 and the Magic beat the Sixers 105-88. While it was only the second win in the past seven games for Orlando, Detroit has won three in a row and five of its last six. The Pistons took the season's first meeting 108-82, here in Detroit, but were scant four-point favorites in that one.
Orlando: The Magic are 8-12 on the season, 7-12 against the spread. This despite them averaging only 93.0 points per game, which is the second fewest in the entire NBA, ahead of only Dallas. While it was "only" Philadelphia, Friday marked perhaps one of the finer efforts of the season from this team as six players scored in double figures, led by Aaron Gordon's 20 points. They made 13 of 23 three-pointers for the game.
Detroit: The Pistons are averaging 118 points per game in this three-game win streak of theirs and just beat the Hawks by 36 points. This team managed to sneak into the playoffs as an eight-seed last year and expectations are higher for Stan Van Gundy now. Playing without point guard Reggie Jackson, it was a bit of a slow start. But all Pistons now seem to be firing, so to speak, at least offensively. Jackson could play for the first time tonight.
The pick: As hot as Detroit has been, I can't possibly envision them playing as well as they did against Atlanta. Nor do I see this hot shooting continuing. Orlando might not be much offensively, but defensively they "come to play" more often than not. Just one time in the last 10 games have they allowed 100 points. That makes taking the points attractive in this situation. Orlando is a 10* play
|12-03-16||Akron v. Creighton -14||Top||70-82||Loss||-105||11 h 10 m||Show|
The set-up: Akron will take its 6-1 record to Creighton for a meeting with the 10th-ranked Blue Jays, who check in at 7-0. Akron comes in with six consecutive victories since losing its season opener Nov. 12 to Youngstown State. Greg McDermott has averaged 23.5 wins per season in his six prior years at Creighton and this year’s team looks like it’s back to NCAA tourney status, after a two-year drought. Akron: Isaiah Johnson, a 6-10 senior center, leads the Zips in scoring (17.3 points), rebounding (6.5), assists (3.0) and steals (1.0). He was named the Savannah Invitational MVP. Johnson is joined up front by the 6-10 Cheatham (8.3 & 6.3) plus the Zips own a deep perimeter group. Jackson (10.4) and Robotham (10.1) are just barely in double digits plus three other backcourt player average just aboy 22 PPG. Akron averages 80.1 PPG and allows 62.7 but will be severely tested here by the Blue Jays. Creighton: The Bluejays average 92.0 PPG (6th) on 54.0 percent shooting (2nd), which includes 46.5% on threes, tops in the nation! Creighton has a 7-0 redshirt freshman center in Justin Patton (13.0 & 6.4) and just how will he fare against Akron senior Isaiah Johnson? The Bluejays have excellent depth on the perimeter, led by Foster (18.3), Thomas (14.4) and PG Watson (11.7 & 8.4 APG). Foster has been a YUGE plus for the Bluejays offense after sitting out last season as a transfer from Kansas State. Justin Patton is tied for the Division I lead in field-goal percentage at 80 percent and three regular contributors, Khyri Thomas, Maurice Watson Jr. and Isaiah Zierden (4.4 PPG) all shoot at least 50 percent beyond the arc. The pick: Akron is a quality team but winning here at CenturyLink Center is a little too much to ask. So is covering the number. Lay the points and make Creighton a 10* play.
|12-03-16||Nets +9.5 v. Bucks||Top||103-112||Win||100||8 h 17 m||Show|
The set-up: The 5-13 Brooklyn Nets and 9-8 Milwaukee Bucks meet at the Bradley Center Saturday afternoon, less than 48 hours after the Bucks won 111-93 over the Nets at Barclays Center. As the two teams meet to play the back end of a home-and-home series Saturday afternoon, Milwaukee has won 13 of the last 17 meetings (dating back to Jan. 9, 2013), including the first two meetings of this season's series. Brooklyn: The Nets committed 17 turnovers in Thursday’s loss to Milwaukee, continuing a season-long problem for Kenny Atkinson’s team, the Nets first-year head coach The Nets are third in the league in turnovers this season, averaging 16.5 per game. The Nets had just suffered a big letdown after a double-overtime triumph over the Los Angeles Clippers in the previous game and Atkinson bemoaned Brooklyn's inability to put points on the board. "We couldn't pierce their defense," Atkinson told reporters. "They kept us in front and they would switch and keep you on the perimeter. ... They were tough to score against (Thursday)." The Nets are averaging 105.4 PPG which ranks 10th but it comes with some p[oor shooting. Brooklyn ranks 24th if FG percentage (43.5%), including 25th on threes (33.0%). The defense is a ‘nightmare,’ ranking last in points allowed (114.3 per) and second-to-last in opponents FG percentage (47.1%). Milwaukee: The Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo had 23 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, four steals and two blocks in 30 minutes on Thursday, before taking a seat for the fourth quarter. The small forward is having a superb season, averaging 22.8-8.5-6.1 but only Jabari Parker (18.8 & 5.8) also scores in double digits for Milwaukee. However, Milwaukee does have a deep bench and against teams like this, it makes a difference. The pick: The problem here for Milwaukee is the big pointspread ,as the Bucks are only outscoring teams at home by about five points per game. In this quick turnaround, I’m “all over” the Nets to bounce back with a strong effort. Upset alert? Take the points and make the Nets an 8* play.
|12-03-16||Northern Iowa -1 v. Wyoming||Top||73-81||Loss||-110||6 h 11 m||Show|
The set-up: The Northern Iowa Panthers have been one of the country's top mid-major programs annually and enter this game just 3-3 but two of those losses have come at the hands of 7th-ranked Xavier, which is 7-0. Wyoming has a new head coach in Allen Edwards, who took over after Larry Shyatt resigned last season. The Cowboys have opened 4-2, including 3-0 SU (2-0 ATS) at home. Northern Iowa: The Panthers are off a 23-win season, which ended with a second round loss in the NCAAs. The team’s best player, guard Washpun (14.2-4.1-5.3) has moved on, as did guard Bohanon (11.5 & 4.1) and the 6-6 Jesperson (11.3 & 5.3). However, veteran guard Morgan (14.7 & 7.5) returns, along with the 6-7 Carlson (11.2) and the 6-9 Koch (9.8). Guard Jordan Ashton (7.5) has made an immediate contribution, after transferring from Iowa State, plus guard Halderman adds 8.5 PPG. UNI doesn’t score much (63.3 PPG) but it also doesn’t allow much, either (58.7 PPG ranks 11th). Wyoming: The Cowboys only lost one starter from last year’s team but it was a big loss, as Josh Adams averaged 24.3 PPG (3rd-best in the nation) as was voted MWC player-of-the-year. Justin James, a 6-7 guard, leads in scoring (17.7 PPG) and is joined on the perimeter by McManamen (14.5) and Aka-Gorski (8.2). Wyoming owns three frontcourt players of note in the 6-9 Herndon (10.2 & 6.5), the 6-8 Dalton (8.2 & 6.8) an the 6-10 Naughton (6.3 & 4.5). The pick: Wyoming may be 3-0 at home to open the young season but Northern Iowa is a road-tested team which plays excellent defense and the MVC is a much better (and deeper) league than the MWC. Northern Iowa is a 10* play.
|12-02-16||St. John's -4.5 v. Tulane||Top||95-75||Win||100||11 h 22 m||Show|
The set-up: Chris Mullins’ first season at his alma mater was one to forget, as St John’s went 8-24 (1-17 in Big East play), ending the season by losing 22 of its final 23 games. The Red Storm opened 2-0 this season but enter this game on a five-game slide, after losing 79-72 to lowly Delaware State at home last Tuesday. St John’s will look to end their skid tonight when they visit 1-6 Tulane. Tulane is coached by another former NBA guard-turned coach in Mike Dunleavy, who is also trying to resurrect a program that finished last in its conference last season, going 3-15 in the AAC, as well as 12-22 overall. St John’s: Freshmen guards Marcus LoVett (18.9-4.4-3.3) and Shamorie Ponds (15.3 & 6.1) lead the Red Storm in scoring but the talented backcourt duo haven’t yet learned the phrase, “play well with others.” St John’s enters this game tied for 246th in the nation in assists at 12.7 per game through Wednesday's games. Tulane: The Green Wave have only played one home game so far in their 1-6 start and did dominate Southeastern Louisiana, 93-76. Guard Kain Harris (12.7) had a career-high 19 points in that Nov. 14 win and is joined in double figures on the season by 6-7 slasher Cameron Reynolds (16.4 & 6.3) and senior guard Malik Morgan (10.4 & 5.6). HoweverTulane ranks 309th in allowing 80.4 PPG and winning too often should not be expected for Mike Dunleavy’s team this season. The pick: Tulane did win its lone home game but with all of St John’s woes, the Red Strom are leaps and bounds better than Southeastern Louisiana. In fact, St. John's opened the season with blowout wins over Bethune-Cookman and Binghamton plus showed plenty of promise in six-point losses against Minnesota and VCU. This is one St John’s can win and I’ll make them an 8* play.
|12-02-16||Magic +2 v. 76ers||Top||105-88||Win||100||10 h 29 m||Show|
The set-up: The 7-12 Orlando Magic lost 95-94 at Memphis last night, the team's fifth defeat in its last six games. They will look to break out of their slump tonight at Philadelphia. The 76ers are just 4-14 overall (4-8 at home) but come in well-rested, having not played since a 122-95 loss in Toronto this past Monday night. Orlando: The Magic were outscored 24-10 down the stretch by the Grizzlies, who erased an 84-71 deficit. "Everything about this loss is disappointing," head coach Frank Vogel told the Orlando Sentinel. The Magic had now lost four straight, three of those at home to sub-.500 teams, before winning Tuesday night in San Antonio. However, any momentum thy had from beating the Spurs is gone, after their collapse against Memphis. "It hurts, man," Magic guard/forward Evan Fournier told the Sentinel. "Hurts bad. They just played more aggressive than us the last five minutes. That's how they got back into the game." Fournier (17.9 PPG) has scored at least 25 points in three of the last five games. Center Nikola Vucevic (12.4 & 11.6) is beginning to get his game together after a slow start, averaging 17 points and 13.4 rebounds over the last five games while posting seven double-doubles in the past eight contests. PG Elfrid Payton (10.5-5.3 APG) had strung three solid games together, making 17-of-30 from the floor before scoring three on 1-of-8 shooting Thursday. Ibaka (14.4 & 6.8) makes it four Orlando players averaging in double digits. Philadelphia: The 76ers saw Wednesday's scheduled home game against Sacramento postponed because of moisture on the Wells Fargo Center floor. However, the team got some good news, as it was announced that rookie center Joel Embiid's minutes restriction was being increased from 24 to 28 per game. Embiid, the third overall pick in the 2014 draft, missed two seasons while recovering from a pair of foot surgeries. He leads the Sixers (and all NBA rookies) in scoring (18.2), rebounding (7.8), blocked shots (2.4) and three-point percentage (.500). Nerlens Noel, who has yet to play this season following minor knee surgery in October, practiced on Wednesday with the Delaware 87ers, Philadelphia's NBA Development League team, then went through drills with the Sixers on Thursday. Philly needs more help, as veteran forward Ersan Ilyasova (13.0) is the only other player scoring more than 11 per game. The pick: It’s not a good sign to blow a lead like the Magic did last night but at this points, Orlando is the better team than Philadelphia and at this price, a win by Orlando ensures a cover. Orlando is a 10* play.
|12-02-16||Duquesne +15 v. Pittsburgh||Top||64-55||Win||100||10 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: Two Pittsburgh-area schools hook up tonight at PPG Paints Arena in The City Game, as 3-5 Duquesne will take on 6-1 Pittsburgh. The Panthers have lost just once (76-67 to SMU at MSG) and are coming off their biggest win of the season, 73-59 at Maryland on Tuesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Meanwhile, the Duquesne Dukes are coming off an 81-72 home loss to UMBC on Wednesday and have set a school record with eight games in November, Duquesne: The Dukes were 17-17 last season and lost their 1-2 backcourt duo of Mason (18.4-3.1-4.5) and Colter (17.9-3.6-4.6). Four of the Dukes' top-five scorers tis year are first-year players, led by 6-2 sophomore Tarin Smith, a Nebraska transfer who averages 11.0-3.1-3.6. Guard Emile Blackman (10.1 PPG) is a graduate transfer from Niagara, while 6-8 Isiaha Mike (9.6 & 5.0) and fellow freshman Mike Lewis II (9.6), a 6-1 guard, are next. Pittsburgh: Jamie Dixon led the Panthers to a 328-123 (.727) record in 13 seasons which included 11 NCAA bids, a CBI championship in 2012 and two, 31-wins season but he’s now at TCU (his alma mater). Longtime Vandy head coach, Kevin Stallings (332-220 record in 17 seasons, including seven NCAA berths), has taken over at Pitt. 6-9 senior Michael Young (23.6 & 8.3) became the first player since Vonteego Cummings (1997-98) to score at least 20 points in five straight games, scoring 25 in the win vs. Maryland. He is joined up front by the 6-7 Artis (19.7-5.4-3.7) and the 6-8 Jeter (5.9 & 7.4). All three are seniors, as is guard Jones (6.6-3.3-3.1), t while 6-8 sophomore Johnson (11.1 & 3.7) joins Young and Artis in double digits. The pick: This series dates back to 1932, with Pittsburgh leading 53-31, which includes 15 straight wins by Pitt over city-rival Duquesne. However, the Dukes do catch Pittsburgh off its huge win over Maryland, which had hopes of starting 8-0 for the first time since 2006-07. the Panthers shot 67 percent while building a 21-point halftime lea, en route to a 73-59 victory, Maryland’s worst loss since 2011. Can you say “let down?” Duquesne is an 8* play.
|12-01-16||Rockets v. Warriors -10||Top||132-127||Loss||-110||14 h 16 m||Show|
The set-up: The 11-7 Houston Rockets visit Oracle Arena in an attempt to snap the 16-2 Golden State Warriors’ 12-game winning streak. The Rockets and Warriors could be shooting for a record of most three-pointers made in a game. The Rockets enter this contest having made at least 10 three-pointers in 17 straight games. lifting them into a tie with Cleveland for the team lead at 13.8 made three-pointers per game. The Warriors owned the NBA perimeter last year and along the way, combined with Mavericks to set an NBA record for most three-pointers made in a game (39) back on March 25, 2016 (GSt. had 21 & Dal. 18). Could that record be in jeopardy in this one? Houston: The Rockets have increased their three-point attempts from 30.9 per game to 36.6 and their percentage of success from 34.7 to 37.8, under first-year head coach Mike D’Antoni. The team has embraced D'Antoni,’s up-tempo style, with James Harden (55), Eric Gordon (55) and Trevor Ariza (52) all ranking among the top-10 this season in three-pointers made, while Ryan Anderson (45) isn't far outside the group. Gordon, who is shooting more often from downtown (7.9 attempts per game, up from 6.5), Ariza, who has connected on a career-best 39.7 percent so far this season and Anderson is a 42.2 percent career three-point shooter who was signed to a four-year, $80 million deal in July. Of course there is Harden, who checks in with a line of 28.7-7.2-11.9. Golden State: The Warriors have opened the season a bit cold from beyond the arc, at least for them.They have attempted the same number as last season (31.6 per game) but their percentage of success has fallen from a league-best 41.6 percent to 38.4. Klay Thompson is a career 41.7-percent shooter on threes but has made only 36.5 percent this season. However, he began the season 11-for-53 (20.8 percent) through seven games but has since made 39 of 84 (46.4 percent) in his last 11 outings (all Golden St. wins). Durant (27.1-8.4-4.7) and Curry (26.6-4.1-5.9) are the highest scoring pair of teammates in the league, Thompson has his average up to 20.7 PPG and in Green (10.1-7.0-8.1), the Warriors own one of the NBA’s most complete and efficient players. The pick: Golden State took all three regular-season meetings in 2015-16 by an average of 12.3 PPG and the teams meet here for the first time since the Warriors beat the Rockets in five games in the opening round of last year’s playoffs. The Rockets come to Oakland from Salt Lake City, where on Tuesday night they allowed the Jazz, a team averaging 98.7 PPG on the season (to rank 25th), to score 120 points on 55.4 percent shooting. It’s scary to think how many points the well-rested Warriors (last played Monday) will score, as they check in as the NBA’s highest scoring team (117.6 PPG) and its best shooting team (50.2 percent). Golden State is a 10* play.
|12-01-16||Cincinnati v. Iowa State -6||Top||55-54||Loss||-110||13 h 34 m||Show|
The set-up: The 5-1 Cincinnati Bearcats will visit No. 19 Iowa State (also 5-1) on Thursday night in Ames. Both schools have lost to a ranked opponent, with Cincinnati's coming 76-71 at hands of Rhode Island (at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut), while Iowa State's fell just this past Sunday against No. 8 Gonzaga 73-71 in the AdvoCare Invitational championship game in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Cincinnati: Mick Cronin’s teams always play outstanding defense and this year’s Cincinnati team is allowing only 59.2 PPG (17th) on 38.2 percent shooting (39th). 6-6 sophomore swingman Jacob Evans leads Cincinnati in scoring at 17.8 PPG (4.7 RPG) and 6-9 junior forward Kyle Washington is averaging 16.8 & 9.3. PG Caupain (9.5-4.7-4.8) needs just three points to become the school's 50th 1,000-point scorer. The Bearcats are disappointed so far in the 6-8 Clark, who was a Preseason All-American Athletic Conference selection. He averaged 10.4 & 8.8 last year but is down to 7.3 & 5.7 this year plus an ankle injury limited him to just six minutes in the team's last game (listed as questionable for this one). Iowa State: The Cyclones return to the Hilton Coliseum looking to get back on the winning track, after rallying from an 18-point deficit in the second half to nearly pull off an upset over Gonzaga. Iowa State is one of the most prolific scoring teams in the country with an average of 88.8 PPG (12th) but it’s no slouch at the defensive end, allowing a modest 64.8 PPG (62nd). Head coach Steve Prohm's team features five senior starters, four of whom have a double-digit scoring averages. PG Morris (16.0-5.2-6.8) leads the way, followed by three more players, all 6-5 or shorter. Long is averaging 15.2 & 6.8, Burton 14.0 & 8.5 and Thomas 11.5 & 4.3. The fifth starter is 6-8 senior Holden, averaging 6.5 & 3.8. The pick: Both Cronin and Prohm coached at Murray State, using that perennial OVC power as a stepping stone to bigger things. These schools met last December with then-No. 22 Cincinnati losing 81-79 to then-No. 11 Iowa State at the Bearcats' Fifth Third Arena. However, this game is in Ames and will be played in an arena described as possessing “Hilton Magic” by the Des Moines Register back in 1989. The 14,384-seat arena includes seats just a few feet from the court and players from opposing teams, and also the home team, have said that the floor has shaken because of the noisy crowd. “Hilton Magic, as they call it,” junior forward Kyle Washington said, smiling. “I’m excited. We’re all gonna have fun with it. Right now we just need to get a win versus a real team, so we can keep on moving forward and building momentum.” Iowa State has won 37 consecutive non-league home games, an active streak ranking only behind that of Duke (129) and Wichita State (41). Iowa State is an 8* play.
|12-01-16||Monmouth v. Quinnipiac +9.5||Top||91-72||Loss||-110||11 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: 4-2 Monmouth will visit 1-4 Quinnipiac as the two MAAC schools open conference play. Monmouth: Four starters return from last year's 28-8 team, including reigning Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Year, the 5-8 Justin Robinson (19.3-3.8-3.7 LY). He has scored in double figures in 58 of his last 64 games, opening this season averaging 13.7-3.0-5.2 in the team’s 4-2 start. As for the other three returning starters, two are also averaging in double digits, led by 6-10 senior center Brady (12.0 & 6.7) and guard Seaborn (13.0). Fellow guard and returning starter Hornbeak checks in at 8.3 & 4.8. It should come as no surprise that Monmouth was selected to finish first in the league this season in a poll of the league's coaches. Quinnipiac: The Bobcats opened 0-4 on the season before winning its last game but overall, had an impressive performance at the AdvoCare Invitational last week. Quinnipiac began with an 82-62 loss to then-No. 11 Gonzaga, but battled the Bulldogs evenly for much of the contest, trailing by just five at one point in the second half. Quinnipiac then jumped out to a 20-10 lead on Seton Hall on Day 2 and was within two points at 62-60 with just under 10 minutes left before falling 90-79. The final day, Quinnipiac came away with the win, defeating Indiana State 80-77 in a game that came right down to the final shot. The Bobcats led by eight with 3:30 to go but the Sycamores rallied and took a one-point lead with 44 seconds left. Chaise Daniels answered with a big basket 20 seconds later, and Quinnipiac earned a key stop, with Daniel Harris making two foul shots. Quinnipiac is coming off a 9-21 season but returns four starters. Freshman guard Kiss currently leads the team in scoring at 12.4 PPG but three returnees are right behind him. Guards Oliver (11.2-4.6-3.2) and Harris (10.8 & 3.8) plus the 6-9 Daniels (12.0 & 6.6). Also, freshman Dixon averages 10.0 PPG and the 6-6 sophomore Bundu 8.3 & 5.8 The pick: I had Quinnipiac in its win over Indiana St, as it won outright as a 10-point underdog and I’ll take them here as a home dog. Quinnipiac ia a 10* play.
|11-30-16||Pacers +7.5 v. Blazers||Top||109-131||Loss||-105||14 h 28 m||Show|
The set-up: The 9-9 Indiana Pacers capped a four-game homestand by scoring 118 points in a rout of the Nets and then shocked the Clippers 91-70 in a defensive gem (Clippers were held to 31.4% shooting, including 4 of 24 on threes). They now open a five-game road trip in Portland, which won’t end until Dec. 9 in Dallas. The 9-10 Portland Trail Blazers will be taking the court off a 130-114 drubbing by the Houston Rockets on Sunday. Indiana: The Pacers’ back-to-back recent home wins were achieved without the services of star forward Paul George (20.8-6.9-3.5), who has missed six of the past seven games and will also sit out Wednesday's contest with ankle and back injuries. The two wins were encouraging to veterans like PG Jeff Teague (14.7 & 7.6 APG) and backup center Al Jefferson (7.0 & 4.4). "For us to be shorthanded and they had their full team, we go out there and do what we did (Sunday), that shows a lot," Jefferson told reporters. "Like I told my teammates, we showed we can do it now, so we can't take a step back. We've got to keep going." Portland: The Rockets scorched the Blazers with 56.1 percent shooting, including 47.2 percent (17 for 36) from three-point range. Portland owns the worst defensive efficiency rating in the NBA (109.80) and is giving up more points (113.7) than any team in the league other than Brooklyn (114.0). The Blazers are tired of talking about getting better at the defensive end. "We keep preaching it, but it's getting old," guard Allen Crabbe said. "At some point, it has to click. We keep telling ourselves we have to get better, but at some point, we have to get it going." Lillard (28.2) and McCollum (22.3) are the second-highest scoring duo in the NBA (next to Durant and Curry) but the team must improve defensively. The pick: The Blazers are one of the better offensive teams in the NBA (rank 3rd at 109.7 PPG) but they have trouble stopping anybody. Cleveland blitzed them for 137 points, Golden State for 127, Houston for 126 and 130, even Phoenix for 121. "We talked about not taking steps back," head coach Nate McMillan said. "We've played some good games, and then you can't recognize the team the next game. We need to build some momentum at this point in the season." I’m not buying into that and I’m taking the points and making the Pacers an 8* play.
|11-30-16||Texas Southern v. Arizona -17||Top||63-85||Win||100||13 h 12 m||Show|
|11-30-16||IUPU-Indianapolis +11.5 v. Illinois State||Top||63-77||Loss||-110||11 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: The IUPUI basketball team will look to break a two-game skid on Wednesday night, when the when the 2-4 Jaguars face 2-2 Illinois State in Normal, Illinois. IUPUI: Head coach Jason Gardner has 10 new faces on this year’s roster but the Jaguars returned their top-two scorers from last year in guard Combs and the 6-7 O’Leary. PG Combs leads the team in scoring at 16.8 PPG (adds 3.5 APG) and O'Leary checks in averaging 12.5 & 7.5. Joining them in double figures is one of those new faces, guard Patterson (10.5), a Syracuse transfer. IUPUI, of the Summit League, leads the conference by limiting foes to just 29.9 percent from three-point range and also leads the league in assists at 15.7 per game (three players, Combs, O'Leary and Kellon Thomas, all average better than three per game). Illinois St: All five of Illinois State's starting lineup average in double-digits, led by 6-8 senior Deontae Hawkins (16.8 & 8.0) and 6-7 junior MiKyle McIntosh (14.3 & 7.3). PG Paris Lee adds 12.8 PPG and a team-best 5.5 APG. The Redbirds shoot 39 percent from three-point range and are outrebounding foes by nearly two caroms per game. The pick: IUPUI capped the four-game 2K Classic with a 2-2 record, losing road games at Michigan and Marquette but winning the Indianapolis sub-regional of the event, capturing home victories over Howard (77-55) and Eastern Michigan (83-71). IUPUI has yet to win on the road (0-4) but this year’s team has way more depth than last year’s unit and while Illinois St is the more complete team, laying double digits is asking too much. IUPUI is a 10* play.
|11-29-16||Pistons v. Hornets -3||Top||112-89||Loss||-110||19 h 30 m||Show|
The set-up: The Charlotte Hornets followed up a season-worst four-skid (Nov. 19-25) with consecutive victories, 107-102 at home against the Knicks and 104-85 at Memphis to get them to 10-7 on the season. The Pistons come to Charlotte on Tuesday 8-10 overall but struggling badly on the road in the early going at 1-8 SU & ATS. Detroit: The Pistons have relied on a balanced approach this season, with six players averaging in double figures. Harris tops the list at 16.4 PPG, while center Andre Drummond is averaging 14.6 points and 13.4 rebounds. That “group of six” doesn’t include PG Reggie Jackson, although he is getting closer to a return from a knee issue. He participated in Monday's practice and it was Jackson's first 5-on-5 practice since receiving injections of platelet-rich plasma more than a month ago to help promote healing. "I've seen him for a couple weeks — he looks fine playing," head coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Stamina is going to be an issue. I don't think he can play 33 minutes a game right now. Whenever they tell me he's ready to go, and he tells me he's ready to go in his mind, then he'll go." Charlotte: The Hornets’ 19-point victory in Memphis represented the team’s second-largest winning margin of the campaign and the 85 points allowed was their fewest of the season. Elevens are currently wild for Charlotte, which ranks 11th in both points scored (107.2) and points allowed (102.3). Standout guard Kemba Walker (24.3-4.2-4.9) has 14, 20-point outings this season and is joined by five more double digit scorers, plus forwards Williams (9.9) and Kidd-Gilchrist (9.3) just miss that plateau. The pick: As noted above, road games have been a big issue for the Pistons this season and with three road games in the next four days, they must figure out quickly how to collect wins away from The Palace of Auburn Hills. Detroit ranks second overall in the NBA in points allowed (97.1 PPG) but on the road Detroit has allowed 105.0 PPG, one of the mains reasons it’s 1-8 SU & ATS. Meanwhile, Charlotte is 4-2 as a home favorite this year and should have little trouble covering this modest number. The Hornets are a 10* play.
|11-29-16||George Washington v. Harvard -3||Top||77-74||Loss||-110||18 h 24 m||Show|
The set-up: George Washington started the season 3-0 but has lost three straight despite holding a lead in each game. The Colonials look to get back to their winning ways as they hit the road for the team's first true road game of the season, taking on Harvard Tuesday in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Crimson are just 1-3 with their only win coming over Fisher College, while losing to Stanford, Holy Cross and UMass. George Washington: GW won the NIT last season but gone are guards Garino (14.1 & 4.2) and McDonald (8.8-5.4-3.1) plus the 6-10 Larsen (12.3 & 8.3). The 6-9 Cavanaugh was the team's best player last year and he’s back, averaging a team-leading 18.2 PPG and 8.2 RPG. He’s joined up front by the 6-9 Watanabe (13.4 & 5.2) but this duo is GW’s only double digit scorers. A bigger issue is that Watanabe missed Saturday’s loss to Penn St with a leg injury and is questionable for this one. Harvard: Head coach Tommy Amaker is in his 10th season with Harvard and after six straight 20-plus win seasons and four straight NCAA appearances, Harvard was just 14-16 last year, including 4th in the Ivy League at 6-8. He has a roster that includes seven freshmen and six sophomores this season but one of those newcomers, 6-7 freshman forward Seth Towns, leads the team in scoring (11.8 PPG), while fellow Henry Welsh (at 6-10), is averaging a team-best 7.0 RPG (adds 8.3 PPG). A third freshman, guard Aiken, is averaging 9.7 PPG while the top-two returning players are senior guard Chambers (8.7 & 5.0) and sophomore guard Johnson (8.8). The pick: A year ago, GW captured the NIT championship in March for its first-ever national postseason championship in basketball but this year’s team is not in that class, especially if Watanabe misses. Harvard has gone 92-56 in non-conference play under head coach Tommy Amaker. The Crimson defeated Boston College in six straight seasons from 2009-2014 and has also topped Auburn, California, Cincinnati, Colorado, Florida State, Michigan, TCU and Utah in Amaker’s tenure. Make Harvard an 8* play in this one.
|11-29-16||Davidson -3.5 v. Mercer||Top||78-57||Win||102||18 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: Davidson and Mercer both have spent time as NCAA Tournament darlings in recent seasons, although that spotlight has focused longer and brighter on Davidson. The two teams meet for the second straight year aon Tuesday at Hawkins Arena on Mercer’s campus.The Wildcats beat the Bears 77-71 last year at Belk Arena, Davidson’s home court. Davidson: The Wildcats are 4-1 and come off three straight wins, downing Missouri, Arizona State and Charlotte as they prepare for their first true road game with the Bears. The Wildcats have been good for some time under head coach Bob McKillop, who has won 520 games with the program since taking over for the 1989-90 season, during which the Wildcats have made eight NCAA trips. This year’s team is led by the trio of senior guard Jack Gibbs (21.0 PPG), 6-7 junior forward Peyton Aldridge (19.8 & 7.6) and junior guard Jordan Watkins, (10.0 PPG). The Wildcats are averaging 76.2 PPG while allowing 68.2 and their lone loss came to Clemson. Mercer: The Bears are 4-2 after losing by a basket to Akron in the championship game of the inaugural Savannah Invitational on Saturday. “It’s a great test. Our schedule this year is amazing in itself and who we’ve already played, we’ve had great opponents, and Davidson is another one of those top-tier programs, top 50 in the country right now in RPI,” Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman said. “So we understand coming in what they bring, what they’re able to do, and if we can match that and do the things that we know we can do, we will have a great chance against them. They’re really good.” Mercer guard Holland (20.2 PPG) can match Davidson’s Gibbs but the 6-6 Jelks (8.2 & 5.5) is no match for Davidson’s 6-7 Peyton Aldridge. The pick: the cream rise to the top in this one, even on the road. Davidson is a 10* play.
|11-28-16||Wake Forest v. Northwestern -3.5||Top||58-65||Win||100||20 h 42 m||Show|
The set-up: Danny Manning’s first two seasons at Wake were a bust, as the Demon Deacons went 13-19 and 11-19. Two key players are gone from last year’s squad in the 6-9 Devin Thomas (15.6 & 10.2) and guard Miller-McIntyre (9.5-4.5-4.0) but Manning saw potential in this year’s group. So far he’s been right, as Wake is 5-1, losing to only Villanova, the defending champs who are loaded again this year. Former Duke player and assistant coach Chris Collins led Northwestern to a school record 20 wins last season (but still no “Big Dance” appearance) and the Wildcats have opened 3-2 this year. Wake Forest: Sophomore Keyshawn Woods is a welcome addition (Charlotte transfer), scoring 13.7 PPG and adding 4.2 RPG. He joins PG Crawford, who is averaging 13.8 PPG and a team-leading 6.3 APG.Two returning big men have shown excellent promise already, as 6-10 sophomore Collins has averaged 18.8 & 8.5 plus 6-10 junior Mitoglou has added 10.0 & 6.7. Northwestern: Manning knows that the Wildcats won't be pushovers in this first-ever meeting with the Demon Deacons. Tre Demps (15.7) is gone from last year’s Northwestern team, as is the 7-0 Olah (11.4 & 5.6) but the 6-7 Law (17.8 & 5.0) and guard Lindsey (15.3 & 5.0) have combined to increase their scoring by 19.8 points per game over last season .PG McIntosh returns and he’s added 12.7 PPG and 5.0 APG. Helping to make up for the loss of Olah is the 6-8 Pardon, averaging 7.7 & 7.3. The pick: Northwestern is just 3-2 but the Wildcats own a win over No. 21 Texas and narrow losses to Butler and Notre Dame, by a total of six points! Northwestern is 3-0 SU at home, outscoring opponents 88.7 to 67.0 PPG. The Wildcats are an 8* play.
|11-28-16||Thunder +1 v. Knicks||Top||112-103||Win||100||18 h 13 m||Show|
The set-up: The 10-8 OKC Thunder come to Madison Square Garden Monday night to take on the 8-8 NY Knicks.Oklahoma City comes in after a 106-88 win over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday when Westbrook posted 17 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists for his second consecutive triple-double and seventh this season. It was also his 44th career triple-double, which ties him with Cleveland's LeBron James. The Knicks had a three-game winning streak snapped Saturday night in Charlotte, falling 107-102 to the Hornets but New York enters this game on a six-game winning streak in MSG. Oklahoma City: Westbrook is humming along in his ninth season with the Thunder, averaging 31.2 points, 9.9 rebounds and 11.1 assist and has at least a few remembering the Big O averaging a triple-double for the entire season back in 1961-62 (30.8-12.5-11.4). However, OKC is far from a complete team with Oladipo (17.3) being its second-best scorer wit that guard duo joining OKC’s two-headed center combo of Kanter (11.9 & 5.8) and Adams (10.7 & 7.8) as the team's core. OKC allows 105.4 PPG (20th) and checks in 8-10 ATS, a reverse of its SU record. NY Knicks: The Knocks are 7-2 SU & ATS at home and come in on a six-game home winning streak. Its top-two scorers are Anthony and Porzingis, who both have played noticeably better at home than on the road. Anthony is averaging 24.4 PPG at home while slumping to 21.1 on the road. Porzingis is suffering through the same inconsistency while averaging 22 points on 51.4 percent shooting at home and 19.6 PPG on 45.9 percent shooting on the road. The team’s new PG, Derrick Rose, is the Knicks’ third double digit scorer at 15.9 PPG (also 4.2 RPG and 5.0 APG). The pick: New York has played well at home but its overall defense is worst than OKC’s, allowing 106.3 PPG (20th) and the Knicks can’t ‘bang’ on the boards up against Kanter and Adams. New York's other big offseason acquisition, center Joakim Noah, who played with Rose in Chicago, has struggled. He missed two games with flu-like symptoms but since his return against the Charlotte Hornets on Friday, Noah hasn't provided much offense with six points to back-to-back games against the Hornets. Noah has scored in double-figures only once this season and checks in averaging 4.1 PPG for the season. At the PG spot, I love Westbrook over Rose. OKC is a 10* play.
|11-27-16||Texas A&M v. UCLA -3.5||Top||67-74||Win||100||12 h 47 m||Show|
The set-up: The 14th-ranked UCLA Bruins are 6-0 and will get a chance to win a tournament named after the program's patriarch when they meet 4-1 Texas A&M in the championship game of the Wooden Legacy tournament Sunday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Ca. UCLA has reached the championship game with a 99-77 win over Portland and an 82-71 win over Nebraska. Texas A&M’s only loss this season was a two-pointer to USC but the aggies have rebounded to win won two in a row since, beating Cal State Northridge 95-73 and then stormed back from a 17-point second-half deficit to edge Virginia Tech 68-65. Texas A&M: The Aggies won 28 games last year, advancing to the Sweet 16 but lost their three best players from that team. Gone are the team's top-two scorers, House (15.6 & 4.8) and Jones (15.3 & 7.2), two 6-7 players who were tough to defend. Also lost was PG Caruso (8.1 & 5.0 APG), the team-leader. Three players who contributed last year are back and the 6-9 Hogg (15.6 & 6.2), the 6-10 Davis (12.2 & 7.2) and guard Gilder (11.2-4.6-5.2) are A&M’s top-three scorers so far. The Aggies have also have benefited from a strong start to the season by 6-9 freshman Robert Williams (10.2 & 6.4) and J.C. Hampton (4.8 PPG), a senior graduate transfer from Lipscomb, is staring in the backcourt alongside of Gilder. UCLA: Steve Alford needs a “breakout season” in Westwood, as his first three seasons at UCLA have gone in the wrong direction. He won 28 games his first season, 22 in his second and then came last year’s 15-17 ‘nightmare.’ Two outstanding freshman have led the turnaround, the 6-10 Leaf (17.8 & 8.8) and the “do-everything” 6-6 Ball (16.0-5.3-9.0). That duo has joined senior guards Alford (17.7) and Hamilton (16.7 & 4.2 APG) plus sophomore guard Holiday (13.0-4.-4.2) and the 7-0 junior Welsh (11.3 & 9.7) to give UCLA six, double digit scorers. No wonder UCLA is second in the nation in scoring at 100.7 PPG and its FG percentage leads all Division I schools (55.8 percent). The pick: UCLA coach Steve Alford was asked what it will mean to his team to play in the championship game of the Wooden tournament."It means a lot for different reasons," he said. "Coach Wooden's name is on it, and what he means to our institution and his legacy of creating excellence both in the classroom and on the basketball court, that is something our guys take seriously. Secondly, we have talked this as a team, and it's our first chance to win a championship. It doesn't mean that you'll have postseason success, but the Final Four teams last year all won an exempt tournament. If that is a goal of ours, as it is, we want to take those steps towards trying to get to that point. Knowing that this championship could have Coach Wooden's name on it is an extra bonus." The A&M football team upended the then-16th Bruins to open the 2016 season, a loss the football team never recovered from. Maybe the basketball team can serve up a little cross-sport revenge? That’s my bet, as I make UCLA a 10* play.
|11-27-16||Kings -3.5 v. Nets||Top||122-105||Win||100||9 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: Rick Adelman led the Kings to the postseason in all eight of his seasons coaching Sacramento but was fired after the 2005-06 season. The Kings haven’t made the playoffs since, entering this season on a 10-year playoff drought (just three times in that stretch has the team even won as many as 30 games!). Sacramento is currently 6-10, after the Rockets made 21 three-pointers in a 117-104 victory in Sacranto on Friday. The downward spiral of the Brooklyn Nets reached six straight losses on Friday in a 118-97 loss at Indiana. The Nets host the Kings on Sunday at 4-11 (7-7-1 ATS), including 3-4 SU at home (4-3 ATS). Sacramento: The Kings had posted impressive wins over Toronto and Oklahoma City before Friday's letdown and first-year head coach Dave Joerger sees improvement. "We're getting better," Joerger told reporters. "We've played some good teams. We've played better as of late. ... We're starting to find a nice mix of chemistry between guys that are playing together at different times." Center DeMarcus Cousins (27.8 & 9.8) remains the star and he turned in a remarkable stat line on Friday with a career-high five made three-pointers and five blocks to go with 32 points and nine rebounds. However, second-year center Willie Cauley-Stein (4.9 & 1.8 in about 12 1/2 MPG) is drifting out of the rotation and did not see the court in either of the last two games (Stein averaged 7.0 & 5.3 last year in about 21 minutes of PT). Brooklyn: the Nets are still learning to play with the pace and style new head coach Kenny Atkinson prefers on the offensive end and the defensive end remains a work in progress. The Nets are hoisting more three-pointers than ever before and from all positions. However, the Nets rank a modest 13th in scoring at 104.9 PPG and the team ranks 26th in three-point shooting at 32.5 percent. As for the team’s defense, well let’s just pardon the pun. Brooklyn allows the most points of any team in the league (113.5 PPG) and opponents are shooting 47.2 percent against them, the second-worst mark in the NBA. The pick: I am well aware that the Kings entered this season 51-146 (.259) SU on the road the last five seasons but the bottom line is, the Kings have to win some games away from home and the Nets should play the perfect foil. Sacramento is an 8* play.
|11-27-16||Indiana State v. Quinnipiac +9.5||Top||77-80||Win||100||2 h 7 m||Show|
The set-up: The 7-10-2 Arizona Coyotes are currently 14th and last in the Western Conference, which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise for a franchise that hasn’t been to the playoffs in four straight seasons. Frankly, the Coyotes prospects of ending that streak this season don't appear promising, at least so far. Arizona visits Edmonton, which has been a huge surprise in the 206-17 season, to-date. The Oilers won the Stanley Cup back in 2005-06 but haven’t made the postseason since, a run of 10 consecutive playoff-less seasons. Edmonton has averaged just 28 wins per year the last three seasons, averaging just barely over 66 points per season, as well. However, at 12-8-2, the Oilers currently sit atop the Pacific Division. Arizona: Many of Arizona’s early woes can be attributed to the fact that the team's No. 1 goalie, Mike Smith, was sidelined early on with an injury. His back-up, Louis Domingue, has played in 14 games, going 4-8-1 with a 3.21 GAA. Smith is back healthy now and is 3-1-1 with a 2.96 GAA and .911 save percentage. Domingue is now the one hurt with a lower body injury, which has landed him on injured reserve. Justin Peters will serve as the backup. Smith was in goal Friday night when Arizona beat Edmonton at home, 3-2 in a shootout. Edmonton: Oilers captain Connor McDavid recorded his first NHL hat trick earlier this month to start a scoring tear. With a goal against the Coyotes on Friday, McDavid has five goals and four assists in a four-game points streak and leads the league with 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists). Also making noise lately are Leon Draisaitl (three goals, three assists) and Milan Lucic (one goal, five assists) each have six points, while Jordan Eberle (two goals, two assists), Oscar Klefbom (two goals, two assists) and rookie Jesse Puljujarvi (four assists) each have four points. The Oilers tweeted Saturday that Cam Talbot will start in goal. Talbot is 11-7-2 with a 2.47 goals-against average, a .921 save percentage and three shutouts. The pick: Edmonton is easily the better team so far this season but Friday’s win by the Coyotes over the Oilers can’t be considered a fluke. That’s an understatement. Since dropping a 4-3 decision in regulation back on Jan. 25, 2011, the Coyotes are 20-0-4 against the Oilers. Arizona's point streak is the longest by one team against a single opponent since the Oilers' 24-game run against the Vancouver Canucks from 1985-88. Edmonton is 5-4-0 at home but 0-4-0 when scoring fewer than three goals per game and faces Mike Smith, who improved to 14-1-1 lifetime against Edmonton with Friday’s triumph. Meanwhile, Talbot’s given up nine goals while going 0-2-1 over his last three starts versus Arizona. I’ll take Arizona plus the 1 1/2 goals and make it an 8* play.
|11-26-16||Wolves v. Warriors -14||Top||102-115||Loss||-110||16 h 48 m||Show|
The set-up; Both the Warriors and Timberwolves played last night, Golden State winning 109-85 at Staples Center over the Lakers with Minnesota rallying from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit at Phoenix to overtake the Suns 98-85. "Our best fourth quarter of the year," gushed Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau afterward. "Things weren't going well in that game, but the fight was there and we just kept working the game and the game turned." As for the Warriors, it was just “another day at the office,” as Golden State won its 10th consecutive game. Minnesota: In Wiggins (24.0), Towns (21.3 & 9.4) and LaVine (18.6) the T-wolves own an impressive trio of their own but last night’s comeback may have extracted a toll on the Timberwolves. Wiggins wound up playing 41 of the 48 minutes and three other starters, including Towns, played at least 35. that figures to leave Minnesota in less-than-ideal shape Saturday night on the second night of a back-to-back. The youthful Timberwolves have responded well to the adversity of the NBA schedule this season, winning on the back half of a consecutive-nights sequence both times they have encountered it. However, neither of those wins have come at the expense of a team like the Warriors. Golden State: Durant (27.1-7.9-4.8), Curry (26.3 & 6.1 APG), Thompson (20.6) and Green (10.5-9.0-6.() give the Warriors an incredible “Core Four,” a group which is averaging 84.5 PPG. That group contributed 83 points last night, although none played more than 36 minutes. That said, the Warriors may have an incentive when they take the court Saturday and that is to “play better!” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr insisted to reporters afterward that "It was one of the worst basketball games I've seen in my life. We were awful, and they were awful. The people who bought tickets should get their money back, honestly." The pick: The Timberwolves won the most recent meeting with the Warriors, handing Golden State one of its nine losses last season, 124-117 in overtime on April 5 in Minnesota. However, the Warriors had won seven straight and 14 of 15 over Minnesota before that April matchup and they come into this one clicking on all cylinders while looking to win an 11th straight game. The Warriors have notched eight double-digit victories during their 10-game winning streak, won their last three games by an average of 34.7 PPG and have won their last five home games by an average of 20.6 PPG. Golden State is an 8* play.